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Not all religious discussions need to focus on the existence of G-d
March 29, 2011 9:54 AM   Subscribe

I would like to request that theological/religious threads (such as this this one) be allowed to be a discussion on a specific religious topic (in this case, hell and the afterlife) and not be turned into a referendum on the nature of belief.

We have had plenty of threads on atheism vs theism - this post doesn't need to be another. Debates over the nature of evidence, belief, etc, are bogging down what could otherwise be an interesting discussion on beliefs about the afterlife. It's like coming into the Star Wars thread to declare that Star Trek is inherently superior and then going on and one about it. Which it is, but that's not the place to talk about Star Trek.
posted by jb to Etiquette/Policy at 9:54 AM (672 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

and not be turned into a referendum on the nature of belief.

Yeah, good luck with that around here.
posted by dersins at 9:56 AM on March 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


As long as everyone can agree that James T. Kirk is the best captain.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:57 AM on March 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


I've dropped out of that thread because a) I fumbled my point early on, and b) there are too many axes being ground for people to be able to hear what I'm trying to say.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:57 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I doubt this thread will go the way you hope it will go.

Personally, I would find it nearly impossible to divorce my beliefs (or lack of) from a discussion like this. It's not a Star Wars vs. Star Trek thing, but rather this one impossible things vs, this other impossible thing.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:59 AM on March 29, 2011


c) Kirk fired first.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:59 AM on March 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


It's a good request but it's never going to happen, people being what they are, and group dynamics being what they are.
posted by rtha at 9:59 AM on March 29, 2011


I find religious studies fascinating, and have devoted a lot of my academic career and personal life to studying it. I'm also a hardline atheist. I have no problem accommodating these two things, and am constantly frustrated when people ruin interesting discussions with knee jerk ranting.

HOWEVER

You also have to keep in mind, that the broader context is often important to a discussion, and if there's controversy and debate around the context, then you can't expect that to go ignored.

Set a good example to others, keep your cool, an d talk to the people worth talking to. Don't feed the trolls.

Now I'm going to go read the thread you linked.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:00 AM on March 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


Kinda like insisting that a thread where some people want to discuss whether chondroitin or St. John's Wart are better treatments for alzheimers shouldn't be turned into a referendum on the effectiveness of supplements.

Yeah, it should.
posted by Plutor at 10:00 AM on March 29, 2011 [21 favorites]


Every Apple thread is quickly populated by the crowd that detests it. Every David Foster Wallace thread features numerous declarations of how he's overrated. I'm not sure how this is any different.

Obviously, if it were an AskMe thread concerning a specific person's beliefs, an atheism derail would be inappropriate. But I don't see why this topic on the blue should be more heavily moderated than any other. I don't like it either, but I don't like a lot of what other people choose to post on the internet, here or elsewhere.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:00 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Amen to this. Too much kneejerk generic argument happening here, without a clear focus on the specific links in the post. (yes I am sure I am guilty too - we are all impefect mortals and we have all sinned)
posted by Meatbomb at 10:01 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Atheism is boring when it's convinced it's correct.
posted by philip-random at 10:02 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, if you believe that there's no such thing as ghosts/spirits/life after death, you're not likely to believe in God, and you're not going to believe in hell, so it all kind of runs together for a lot of people.
posted by norm at 10:02 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Kinda like insisting that a thread where some people want to discuss whether chondroitin or St. John's Wart are better treatments for alzheimers shouldn't be turned into a referendum on the effectiveness of supplements.

Yeah, it should.


If it is your position that Metafilter should not have posts or discussions about religious esoterica, say so.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:03 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


we are all impefect mortals and we have all sinned

Not me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:03 AM on March 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


I know that my own personal desires for a thread bear no weight, but I was really looking forward to a discussion on ideas about the afterlife, as in Dante or Judaism or Islam - or any other religion. Or perhaps a discussion on why universalism seems to be so threatening to evangelical churches (hopefully a respectful discussion). None of these are my personal beliefs (except maybe universalism), but I am interested in learning.
posted by jb at 10:06 AM on March 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Maybe framing it in the context of changing Christian conceptions of the idea of hell, or the role of intellectual freedom withing within church ministry would have helped to focus the discussion?

Maybe not, but those seem to be the trigger points in the articles, but aren't mentioned in the summary. In a thread like that, the summary is probably your only chance to inoculate against trolls and shape the discussion.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:07 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Every Apple thread is quickly populated by the crowd that detests it.

I don't think they're the problem as much as the people who describe every criticism of apple as 'hating'.
posted by empath at 10:08 AM on March 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


To expand on my earlier, admittedly glib comment: experience shows that almost every metafilter thread that is even tangentially about religion will have, within the first 20-30 comments (often much earlier) a snide "invisible sky giant / invisible sky daddy / people with faith are the equivalent of retarded children" comment from one of the oh-so-clever, oh-so-original members of the Metafilter Atheister-Than-Thou Brigade.

It's tiresome and predictable enough that I, whom am agnostic at best (but know, love and respect a lot of highly intelligent, socially and politically progressive people of faith), just stay out of those threads. It's not worth the agita to engage folks who are every bit as inflexibly dogmatic (and often more so) than those they contemptuously deride.
posted by dersins at 10:09 AM on March 29, 2011 [44 favorites]


Not me.

Not according to the VIP pass on your website!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:10 AM on March 29, 2011


...With all due respect, dersins, perhaps more even-tempered people abastaining from a thread is exactly what is allowing the oh-so-clever folk to post unchecked.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:12 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


we are all impefect mortals and we have all sinned

Not me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson


Vanity
posted by vacapinta at 10:12 AM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


I would like to request that theological/religious threads (such as this this one) be allowed to be a discussion on a specific religious topic (in this case, hell and the afterlife) and not be turned into a referendum on the nature of belief.

We have had plenty of threads on atheism vs theism - this post doesn't need to be another. Debates over the nature of evidence, belief, etc, are bogging down what could otherwise be an interesting discussion on beliefs about the afterlife.


I'm sure there's a way to have a good thread about religion, but a link to Fox News about a current-events religious controversy definitely isn't the best way to start one.

If you want to have a calm, rational discussion about comparative religion, post links to dry academic papers or essays about comparative religion and leave news-y political stuff out of your post.
posted by empath at 10:13 AM on March 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


jb: "I know that my own personal desires for a thread bear no weight, but I was really looking forward to a discussion on ideas about the afterlife, as in Dante or Judaism or Islam - or any other religion. Or perhaps a discussion on why universalism seems to be so threatening to evangelical churches (hopefully a respectful discussion). None of these are my personal beliefs (except maybe universalism), but I am interested in learning."

Part of my own problem with the thread is I'm afraid to say something that people will interpret as being "The Jewish Perspective." There isn't one single agreed-upon Jewish perspective on death or the afterlife. (Or anything, really.) So I've been trying to answer but at the same time make it clear that what I'm saying doesn't apply to all Jews and I'm not really an authority. It's been making me feel like my comments are sounding like manipulative non-answers even though that's not what I'm trying to do. Very frustrating.
posted by zarq at 10:14 AM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


zarq - even telling me that much is learning for me, and very much why I read metafilter. Thank you.
posted by jb at 10:15 AM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Vanity

I bet that link is about me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:15 AM on March 29, 2011 [31 favorites]


who describe every criticism of apple as 'hating'

One of the guys I work with here showed up with an Apple machine. He'd recently been given it, used, because he didn't have a laptop and didn't really use computers.

I am no expert but I know my basic way around WinXP, the Internet, et al. This guy was struggling with navigating the company website, didn't understand the concept of folder structures, didn't understand the concept of naming a new file... He is writing my instructions down step by step on paper. He is typing the url for the company website into the browser every time he visits. Holy shit, and here I am supposed to train and support him with his broken fucking alien computer.

Where's the fucking right mouse button?! How do you access the file system on the disc? Where does shit get saved? How do you widen the various panes of the windows? He doesn't know, and neither do I.

In the last two weeks I have become an Apple hater.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:16 AM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Perhaps there are better places to discuss these things like in the conservapedia forums or christian forums with strong moderation (christianity on reddit seems to keep people like me out). I think the crowd here is well known and expecting a conversation that will never happen is being is being naive, especially when items like 21grams are mentioned. Also, I believe I have the right to not to respect the article in the comments. I shouldn't be able to post an article about "Re-Thinking Hitler, the Fuerer's take on fashion and love" and expect others not to mention WWII.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:18 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to have a calm, rational discussion about comparative religion, post links to dry academic papers or essays about comparative religion and leave news-y political stuff out of your post.

I do not for a moment believe this would lead to a substantially different Metafilter thread.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:19 AM on March 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


Where's the fucking right mouse button?! How do you access the file system on the disc? Where does shit get saved? How do you widen the various panes of the windows? He doesn't know, and neither do I.

If you're serious, say so and I will enlighten you, Brother Meatbomb.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:21 AM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Damn dirty ape, I said in the thread that the "21 grams" thing was a dumb move on my part. I admitted you were right.

Honestly, what the hell more do you want??
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:21 AM on March 29, 2011


zarq: There isn't one single agreed-upon Jewish perspective on death or the afterlife. (Or anything, really.)

I think we can all agree that matzoh made with the blood of Palestinian babies is by far the tastiest.
posted by gman at 10:24 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, I believe I have the right to not to respect the article in the comments.

At some point you are probably allowed to decide 'Okay all those people in that thread who were trying to have an interesting conversation about something I don't care about-- I've probably called them idiots enough times now, maybe I should go read a book or something.'
posted by shakespeherian at 10:24 AM on March 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


yeah, see, it got personal, and then got ugly. Beliefs are highly personal, and everyone has an opinion on them..
posted by k5.user at 10:24 AM on March 29, 2011


jb: "zarq - even telling me that much is learning for me, and very much why I read metafilter. Thank you."

You're welcome! And thanks for saying this. It's helpful to me, too.
posted by zarq at 10:26 AM on March 29, 2011


...With all due respect, dersins, perhaps more even-tempered people abastaining from a thread is exactly what is allowing the oh-so-clever folk to post unchecked.

everyone gets to choose which debates they feel like having. While there is certainly no proscription against religious topics here (mostly) they do tend to go poorly because they tend to be populated by people with very strong feelings. This is good and bad news. The prople who want to be in them hsve the responsibility to improve them. We'll try to delete invisible sky minster snark/derail when we see it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:26 AM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Honestly, what the hell more do you want??

...so to speak, of course.
posted by norm at 10:27 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was a little disappointed I got to that thread something like fifty comments in, because it had the potential to be interesting. Then I saw the direction the conversation was going and realized I didn't want any part of that sucker. Screw that.
posted by valkyryn at 10:29 AM on March 29, 2011


I think we can all agree that matzoh made with the blood of Palestinian babies is by far the tastiest.

Baked or steamed?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:29 AM on March 29, 2011


Perhaps there are better places to discuss these things like in the conservapedia forums or christian forums with strong moderation (christianity on reddit seems to keep people like me out). I think the crowd here is well known and expecting a conversation that will never happen is being is being naive, especially when items like 21grams are mentioned. Also, I believe I have the right to not to respect the article in the comments. I shouldn't be able to post an article about "Re-Thinking Hitler, the Fuerer's take on fashion and love" and expect others not to mention WWII.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:18 PM on March 29 [+] [!]


Or perhaps you could restrain yourself, so that others could have discussions you are not interested in? I never enter sports threads to say that I think that professional sports are a waste of society's resources. I may or may not believe this, but I don't think it's appropriate that every thread on sports should turn into a referendum on whether sports should exist. It's none of my business, and I move onto what I am interested in.
posted by jb at 10:30 AM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Or perhaps you could restrain yourself --- You realize you're on the internet, right?
posted by crunchland at 10:33 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or perhaps you could restrain yourself --- You realize you're on the internet, right?
posted by crunchland at 1:33 PM on March 29 [+] [!]


Yes, but I have higher hopes for humanity, even on the internet : ), and especially on metafilter. Metafilter is supposed to be all about not being (completely) anonymous and disregarding of your fellow members.
posted by jb at 10:35 AM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


The topic is about someone who questions a belief in Hell. He does not believe. And then some commentary about what has happened to that person, since his beliefs in that particular did not jibe with the more mainstream beliefs in the larger portion of his religion.

Unless the ensuring conversation has nothing to do with the topic, keeping belief out of the conversation is ... unlikely. I suppose you could be lucky enough to get only respondents who all believe in an afterlife, in Hell, what type of Hell* it might be, and so forth. At which point it boils down to "So, umm ... some of bolgias don't sound too bad." "I dunno, Wrathful and the Sullen, might not be the worst gig. Unpleasant, sure, but not like burning."

The topic is belief and the lack thereof. The more negative afterlives are in no small part responsible for some people transitioning out of faith entirely. It's pretty tough to separate all of that out into neat little packages for light discussion.

* I kind of like the Narakas, especially the ones where you are there for 4.2467328×1017 years. "You are going to be here for a time period lending itself to exponential notation."
posted by adipocere at 10:36 AM on March 29, 2011 [18 favorites]



Perhaps there are better places to discuss these things like in the conservapedia forums or christian forums with strong moderation...

I find that these discussions are best had with diverse perspectives, as long as they're all able to hold their tempers, stuff down hurt feelings, and discuss things rationally and with good will. It's a rare thing, but it's damn fun when it happens.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:38 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter is supposed to be all about not being (completely) anonymous and disregarding of your fellow members. --- When did this happen?
posted by crunchland at 10:39 AM on March 29, 2011


The topic is belief and the lack thereof. The more negative afterlives are in no small part responsible for some people transitioning out of faith entirely. It's pretty tough to separate all of that out into neat little packages for light discussion.

However, as you say, the topic is belief and the lack thereof of hell, not afterlife altogether. Nor is it about belief and lack thereof of Deity.

Which is why I find the "believing in an afterlife means you're one of the people who supports DOMA" insinuations somewhat baffling.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:40 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think they're the problem as much as the people who describe every criticism of apple as 'hating'.

Even strawmen deserve hugs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:40 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do not for a moment believe this would lead to a substantially different Metafilter thread.

If I made one, would it be too stunt-y?
posted by empath at 10:40 AM on March 29, 2011


Here is my opinion on this specific religious topic: it is a fairy story with no evidence in its favor and no rigor in its definition. Just because you can apply that to any other supernatural religious topic doesn't make it less valid as an observation.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:42 AM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


"It's been making me feel like my comments are sounding like manipulative non-answers even though that's not what I'm trying to do. Very frustrating."

So, Jews are frustrated by that. Good to know.

(I am teasing you.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:42 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or perhaps you could restrain yourself --- You realize you're on the internet, right?

Where there are a plethora of other places to vent your spleen that are not a Metafilter thread that is tangentially related to the spleeny topic.

Some words seem to be poison especially for metafilter though. In this thread about a cool thing someone did with a video game, people could not seem to see past "PETA" which really should have been a side note.
posted by zennie at 10:43 AM on March 29, 2011


There are just some things we don't do well here. It would be nice if this was not so, but that's just not going to happen. Once you've been around a while you can tell which ones they are pretty easily. Then you just avoid them. It's actually even easier than it sounds.
posted by tommasz at 10:43 AM on March 29, 2011


the peta derail happened because that's what happens when you mention them, but it also happened because the post was written in such a way that put peta front and center. framing matters. the poster even immediately realized he had buried the lede.
posted by nadawi at 10:46 AM on March 29, 2011


"I suppose you could be lucky enough to get only respondents who all believe in an afterlife, in Hell, what type of Hell* it might be, and so forth. At which point it boils down to "So, umm ... some of bolgias don't sound too bad." "I dunno, Wrathful and the Sullen, might not be the worst gig. Unpleasant, sure, but not like burning.""

You know, it's possible to not believe in Hell and still have informed and reasonable opinions about it.

Just because there's a large proportion of ignorant, declaiming atheists here doesn't mean that all atheists are ignorant or unable to talk intelligently about religion. Perhaps if you're having trouble with it, you could wait until the thread has developed a little more.
posted by klangklangston at 10:46 AM on March 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


Speaking only for myself, if you take the 'fire insurance' aspects of Christianity off the table, the religion becomes a lot more interesting. That's why the Pearson story is so compelling to me; that's why this story is fascinating. What happens if Christians (or any religion) start acting based on love rather than their fear of unending torment?

There's an incredibly compelling episode in an early Radiolab (pre-Krulwich, so not officially available, I don't think, but it's out there) called 'Family Feuds Over The Lord.' The documentarian (a lesbian secular Jew) asks her converted evangelical (some might say 'cultist') brother about his views of the afterlife, and he evasively tries to defer to scripture rather than answering the question. Finally he says that he doesn't really know but believes that his views on the subject are irrelevant because it's a question of scripture not of his belief. The doctrine means that he feels compelled to disavow his own sister because of her homosexuality-- which is why he believes she is going to hell (not that he knows what that is). This doctrine is the cause of a schism in their family.

Heartbreaking vignettes like that really illuminate how the differing approaches to teachings of the afterlife can transform a benevolent religion of love and understanding into an embittering, nasty entity that destroys families and breeds hate. If Pearson and Holtz and their ilk are the harbingers of a hell-free Christianity, they hold the potential to actually make religion somewhat relevant. So please, no need to try to kick out the non-believers out of this discussion. Taken to its logical conclusion, if there is no hell, then Christianity doesn't even need a God to have something to offer.
posted by norm at 10:49 AM on March 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


> Perhaps if you're having trouble with it, you could wait until the thread has developed a little more.

Yeah, that's the unfortunate reality of many religion threads here, more or less. Once the knee jerk blah blah non-falsifiable sky god ate my dingo foreskin usual suspects have shot their anemic loads, and they're more or less ignored, then often actual discussion takes place. It's far from ideal, but it can be interesting at times.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:50 AM on March 29, 2011


That's why the Pearson story is so compelling to me; that's why this story is fascinating. What happens if Christians (or any religion) start acting based on love rather than their fear of unending torment?

...I'm fairly certain that most Christians are already acting based on love as opposed to "fear of hell".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:53 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here is my opinion on this specific religious topic: it is a fairy story with no evidence in its favor and no rigor in its definition. Just because you can apply that to any other supernatural religious topic doesn't make it less valid as an observation.

It doesn't also doesn't make it an observation that adds any value to what could be an interesting discussion. Even given this opinion it should be possible to have an interesting discussion on the theology of hell, the effect of belief in it, the myriad interpretations of hell found in Christianity, the peculiar subcultures of fundamentalist evangelicalism, etc. The speed with which Damn Dirty Ape got both personal and mean turns a potentially interesting discussion into an ugly spectacle.
posted by pseudonick at 10:54 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


knee jerk blah blah non-falsifiable sky god ate my dingo foreskin usual suspects

SPOILER ALERT

************

...
...
...

Richard Dawkins was Keyser Söze
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:54 AM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


The second comment derisively referenced the "magical old man who lives in the sky," yet this thread got re-railed and even led to a meetup.
posted by desjardins at 10:56 AM on March 29, 2011


my father was an enormous cumulonimbus cloud and when i was very young he went out for some clouds shaped like cigarettes and never came back so when people talk about "sky daddy" it makes me very sad ;_;
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:56 AM on March 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


It doesn't also doesn't make it an observation that adds any value to what could be an interesting discussion.

This wasnt a link to the wikipedia entry on hell, but a highly politicized piece about a preacher who got fired for thinking hell doesnt exist and that homosexuals dont automatically get sent there. Don't make it something its not. Its 100% applicable to the atheist school of thought. This guy is a proto-atheist or at least a Christian with a conscience.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:58 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have serious issues sometimes with so-called TECHNO music. Don't get me wrong. I love some of it. I just find that there's a certain kind of techno-fan who has no interest in ANY other kind of music. That is, if it doesn't have a bomp-bomp-bomp electronic bassline that FORCES you to move, if it isn't completely comprised of machine generated (or sampled) sounds, then it's not worth listening to, or even acknowledging. This narrow, close-minded, culturally xenophobic attitude usually found in otherwise decent, sensitive, creative people drives me a special kind of crazy.

I long ago learned to stay out of TECHNO threads on MetaFilter.
posted by philip-random at 10:59 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Invisible sky wizard" : Religion Discussions :: "I don't even own a TV" : Pop Culture Discussions
posted by Babblesort at 11:00 AM on March 29, 2011 [17 favorites]


This guy is a proto-atheist or at least a Christian with a conscience.

There is so much irony in this sentence, the inherent magnetism of it just pulled my laptop halfway across the room.
posted by philip-random at 11:01 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


...I'm fairly certain that most Christians are already acting based on love as opposed to "fear of hell".

Like Stockholm syndrome?
posted by the_artificer at 11:02 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perhaps there are better places to discuss these things like in the conservapedia forums or christian forums with strong moderation

I'm as raging a raging atheist as ever did non-believe, but come ON. A lot of awfully smart people over the centuries have been religious scholars debating the finer points of whether hell exists and all these other doctrinal points. There is a lot of interesting discussion to be had about that stuff, and we don't always need to pronounce about how we think it's false.

Christians (just to pick an example faith) believe in a lot of things that are very strange and suprising - the trinity (3 in 1), the changing of communion wafers into divine flesh, everlasting torment as a thing that's allowed by a loving God, etc. They know these things are surprising and not very credible on their faces - there has been intense hot debate over centuries involving arguments made by very smart people about how to reconcile these ideas. There are extremely interesting ideas here. Just saying "but look, they believe that a loving God allows hell! Thus they're wrong" is not a novel point; the Christian thinkers have answers to these objections. Maybe their answers are unconvincing, but it's still a back-and-forth that's interesting to follow and more intellectually rich than many atheists seem to give it credit for.

As I said, I'm an atheist, and I hate a lot of the anti-intellectual and socially harmful garbage that goes on in the name of religion. But surely we are capable of having a discussion about theological controversies without devolving into "nuh uh"/"yeah huh". Treat it as a series of hypotheticals, or an axiom set, where we're trying to draw out the implications and resolve apparent contradictions. There's a strain of theological thinking that is very much like logic games or mathematical reasoning. We don't need to get into a debate over whether numbers exist in a Platonic realm or if they are purely a matter of convention, in order to enjoy a discussion about some other debate in math.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:03 AM on March 29, 2011 [31 favorites]


Like Stockholm syndrome?

Don't be a dick.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:05 AM on March 29, 2011


Somehow, all Jewish threads on the subject of religion never devolve into that. Rather, they turn into threads about how awesome it is.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:05 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


And also, from a less abstract-arguments point of view, this business about hell is apparently a rising debate within evangelical communities in the US today. New bestselling book by some hot young pastor, saying that his flock of young Christians think don't believe in hell and the idea of everlasting torment of people who did good actions on earth is repugnant to them.

Even as atheists we should be interested to note this development, since these evangelical groups have (IMO) disproportionate influence over our politics. If their views are changing, maybe as a generational thing, it will have a big effect on our lives. Makes sense to pay attention.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:06 AM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


the changing of communion wafers into divine flesh

That's just Catholics (transubstantiation), not all Christians.
posted by Falconetti at 11:06 AM on March 29, 2011


Fair enough, didn't mean to overgeneralize. Pick your favorite surprising metaphysical claim; the group that believes in it - if that group's been around for more than a hundred or two hundred years, has put serious intellectual work into arguments pro and con for that claim.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:08 AM on March 29, 2011


No, see, Falconetti, all Christians think exactly the same thing about everything, didn't you hear? [/bitter hamburger]
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:08 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Note that this problem did not happen in the recent Talmud thread. It's because Judaism is awesome and internet hotheads know it.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 11:09 AM on March 29, 2011


....I'm sorry, that "bitter hamburger" was mean of me. My apologies.

(I've just had to sing that aria so many times, I thought I heard my cue again.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:09 AM on March 29, 2011


the mormons don't believe in the same sort of hell as most of the christians. they also don't believe in the same sort of heaven. christians aren't a singular group with singular ideas. they don't all believe in the trinity, original sin, or transubstantiation.
posted by nadawi at 11:09 AM on March 29, 2011


and not be turned into a referendum on the nature of belief.

There are too many heathens headed straight to Hell around here for that to happen?
posted by caddis at 11:11 AM on March 29, 2011


I have serious issues sometimes with so-called TECHNO music. Don't get me wrong. I love some of it. I just find that there's a certain kind of techno-fan who has no interest in ANY other kind of music.

Let God use you this week for his glory. Let us beautify the house of god together! 50 dollars or more! I am excited!
posted by loquacious at 11:11 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll stop denying the existence of God when people stop going on cycling threads to talk about how cyclists always violate traffic rules.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:11 AM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


A debate about the nature of hell is precisely analogous to a debate about whether Kirk or Spock made the first move when they made out on Planet Omicron Ceti III, except that no-one is supposed to mention that neither Kirk nor Spock (nor Planet Omicron Ceti III) exist, and therefore that any postulated answer to the question would only have the value of satisfying the fantasies of fanfic authors, also known as theologians.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:11 AM on March 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yes, those were arbitrarily selected examples of surprising metaphysical beliefs. I know there's a lot of variation between Christian groups about these points, even to the point where some groups would insist that other groups aren't "really Christian" because they disagree about these points. Select a listing of surprising metaphysical beliefs that pertains to whatever branch we're considering.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:12 AM on March 29, 2011


A debate about the nature of hell is precisely analogous to a debate about whether Kirk or Spock made the first move when they made out on Planet Omicron Ceti III

Spock totally leaned into it.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:13 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]




I'll stop denying the existence of God when people stop going on cycling threads to talk about how cyclists always violate traffic rules.


I'm going to punish all of metafilter by finding some legitimate way to tie Apple, Cycling, Food, Jesus, Communism, and Abortion all into one big thread.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:14 AM on March 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


"It's because Judaism is awesome and internet hotheads know it."

It's also because anti-semitism has a really nasty history, so people tend to be on better behavior about it. The chance of doing real harm by mocking Christian beliefs is much lower, however vestigial the narrative of martyrdom is.
posted by klangklangston at 11:16 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm going to punish all of metafilter by finding some legitimate way to tie Apple, Cycling, Food, Jesus, Communism, and Abortion all into one big thread.

If you can throw in circumcision, declawing and street harrassment, I'm gonna make popcorn and watch.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:16 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't forget Palestine. Mmmm, popcorn.
posted by Go Banana at 11:17 AM on March 29, 2011


Stagger Lee: " I'm going to punish all of metafilter by finding some legitimate way to tie Apple, Cycling, Food, Jesus, Communism, and Abortion all into one big thread."

AYN RAND WAS AN APPLE-LOVING TRAFFIC-RULES BREAKING CYCLIST VEGAN ISRAELI NEOCONSERVATIVE WHO SECRETLY LOVED JESUS, RUSH LIMBAUGH, COMMUNISM, ABORTIONS AND HAD ALL HER CATS DECLAWED AND CIRCUMCISED WITH GLEEFUL ABANDON.


See, now I'm going to Hell!
posted by zarq at 11:20 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have serious issues sometimes with so-called TECHNO music. Don't get me wrong. I love some of it. I just find that there's a certain kind of techno-fan who has no interest in ANY other kind of music.

I've come to baptize every single one of you WITH FIRE
posted by empath at 11:21 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


damn dirty ape: " This wasnt a link to the wikipedia entry on hell, but a highly politicized piece about a preacher who got fired for thinking hell doesnt exist and that homosexuals dont automatically get sent there. Don't make it something its not. Its 100% applicable to the atheist school of thought. This guy is a proto-atheist or at least a Christian with a conscience."

By this reasoning, since I don't believe in Hell and don't think gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people get sent there, I'm also an atheist.

My rabbi will plotz.
posted by zarq at 11:22 AM on March 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


Apple, Cycling, Food, Jesus, Communism, Abortion, Circumcision, Declawing, Street Harrassment, Palestine, Popcorn...

HA HA HA HA!!! I googled the above, and the third return was MetaTalk taglines!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:22 AM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Klangklangston, you're talking about something different (respect) than what I was talking about, specifically the request that the discussion "not be turned into a referendum on the nature of belief. "

I'm an atheist; I also love reading about various afterlives as postulated by different religions and then the consequences of variations: once you start saying "Afterlife but no Hell," (for various values of Hell) either you're heading towards a What Dreams May Come scenario or you've got the equivalent of The Dip (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) for souls. "Not the DII-iiip!" God has no hope for you, it's time for a dunk. I think the Jehovah's Witnesses have that setup; come Judgment Day, God just leaves you in the dirt, please continue rotting.

Even with all of the options available, though, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" has never stopped resonating through American Christianity, like the way the Moon continues ringing from a meteor impact centuries ago. It's a background dread to many and is not something which can be waved aside. You cannot get away from it. Even cartoon devils still carry pitchforks. Why? To jam into the eternally damned, deep, and push them back into the boiling pitch. We are not far away from the reminders.

People leave their faiths over discomfort with various afterlives matching Hell. Once you start questioning belief in one section of the doctrine, the rest is up for grabs. That is a key element in the nature of belief. That's why I think these discussions leak all over the place and will continue to do so.

That is why, if you want to take belief off the table, you're basically talking about cataloging and coping with an unpleasant afterlife. I'm not being flip about the Inferno (and its derivatives) — once you start to consider a Hell, you begin to wonder what portions of it would be more or less miserable, how it might work, and so forth. Oh, yeah, "This has been willed where what is willed must be," got to remember that. What is the nature of oblivion? If I do land in What Dreams May Come, couldn't we engineer a scheme to get everyone out? I mean, if you can do it once ...

Failing that, these sorts of discussions inherently remind us of their own opposites. That, I think, is the Hell of the postmodernists.
posted by adipocere at 11:22 AM on March 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


c) Kirk fired first.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:59 PM


>we are all impefect mortals and we have all sinned

Not me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:03 PM


Oh no?
posted by DU at 11:31 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, I hadn't even noticed that this thread already had comparisons to Star Trek in it. Clearly some kind of MetaFilter religion.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:34 AM on March 29, 2011


A debate about the nature of hell is precisely analogous to a debate about whether Kirk or Spock made the first move when they made out on Planet Omicron Ceti III

No, not quite. Because even if you take elements of dogma as hypothesis, as LobsterMitten suggests, they can serve as a framework from which to consider ethical decisions - as good a framework as any other theoretical framework that draws on nontangible structure. Much theological debate - in fact, I'd say most - isn't about whether or not something happened at some point in the past or whether a belief is true. It's about "What are the implications of accepting this as part of an ethical practice or not?" There is reasoning that can be done within any belief system, even if you don't accept the system as your own, just as you can assume any rational framework and argue from it even if you don't accept the foundational beliefs. They are systems of thinking, and that thinking can be interesting, if one is willing to consider the structures or stories with suspended disbelief just long enough to see what wisdom can be drawn from them.

Also, there can be productive conversation between and among people who are interested in aspects of belief systems without fully accepting those systems. Discussions of Chinese medicine, for instance, can be really fascinating in and of themselves even if they don't share the same foundational assumptions as Western medicine; they might enlighten people as to significant components of Chinese art, culture, or thinking that have political and economic impacts or make for more effective communication.

And finally, my life experience suggests that, if you are a hardline athiest and believe everyone should be a hardline athiest, you might want to encourage religious discussion that's comparitive rather than absolutely dismissive, because it seems that people move most easily from fundamentalist to liberalist positions through comparative debate and the reasoning that demands.
posted by Miko at 11:35 AM on March 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94: "Wow, I hadn't even noticed that this thread already had comparisons to Star Trek in it. Clearly some kind of MetaFilter religion."

It's Tribbles, all the way down.
posted by zarq at 11:36 AM on March 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wish we could have a discussion about Star Trek without the knee-jerk blah-de-blah poop-de-doodle tribbleist contingent showing up to ruin everything. Fucking MetaFilter.
posted by fleacircus at 11:42 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Atheism is boring when it's convinced it's correct.

We have faith in our lack of faith.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:45 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Miko, I agree that there is wisdom to be derived from fiction, but among that wisdom is the acknowledgement that we are discussing fiction, when facing widespread assertions to the contrary. It is good to discuss the provenence and effects of the belief in hell on human society, as long as we accept that no one person's vision of hell is more valid than any other, because they are all equally divorced from reality.

I also agree that a blunt dismissal of proclaimed truths is not the most pragmatic stance, but I resent people trying to prevent it being said, because it happens to be one of the most important facets within any religious discussion.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:50 AM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


> because it happens to be one of the most important facets within any religious discussion.

I disagree. If you're in an art gallery talking about some of the pieces on the walls, you don't need to bother with talking about the the quality of the concrete used in the building's foundation. As much as analogies are worth, anyway.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:53 AM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Remember, kids, when you discuss the academic aspects of topic X on MeFi , you muist immediately also discuss why topic X is awful and should never exist too, or you're Doing It Wrong.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:55 AM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Star Wars vs. Star Trek thing, but rather this one impossible things vs, this other impossible thing.

Star Wars vs. Star Trek is one impossible thing vs. this other impossible thing. Pointing that out repeatedly to Trekkies and (don't you dare call us Warsies) Star Wars fans is kind of boorish. Maybe give the thread a pass if you can't control your evangelical-skeptic compulsions?
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:00 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


gman: " I think we can all agree that matzoh made with the blood of Palestinian babies is by far the tastiest."

Yes, but only during Lent.
posted by zarq at 12:02 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Star Wars vs. Star Trek is one impossible thing vs. this other impossible thing. Pointing that out repeatedly to Trekkies and (don't you dare call us Warsies) Star Wars fans is kind of boorish.

Science fiction fans know it is fiction.

evangelical-skeptic

It's only a war when the oppressed fight back, eh?
posted by DU at 12:03 PM on March 29, 2011


fairytale of los angeles: "Remember, kids, when you discuss the academic aspects of topic X on MeFi , you muist immediately also discuss why topic X is awful and should never exist too, or you're Doing It Wrong."

Fortunately we were able to throw about three or four Lovecraft posts up in a couple of days so that the "Lovecraft is a racist!" derail only had to happen once.
posted by charred husk at 12:04 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Science fiction fans know it is fiction.

How do you explain Scientologists?
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:10 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Military Intelligence and a easy 50's lifestyle.
posted by clavdivs at 12:11 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Science fiction fans know it is fiction.

I know hell is fiction, too, but it's still interesting. As is tao and zen and shinto and the Eleusinian Mysteries. You gonna kick up the same kinda thread-crapping ruckus whenever someone makes a post about something supernatural someone once believed?

It's only a war when the oppressed fight back, eh?

What are you fighting against? Freedom of conviction? I can't really get behind denying a fundamental human right. It's kind of a "we had to destroy the village to save it" kind of deal.

Also, this isn't the place to fight. At all.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:15 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: "So, Jews are frustrated by that. Good to know."

:D
posted by zarq at 12:17 PM on March 29, 2011


(I've just had to sing that aria so many times, I thought I heard my cue again.)

It's your own "had to" that snares you every time.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 12:19 PM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


tommasz - There are just some things we don't do well here. It would be nice if this was not so, but that's just not going to happen. Once you've been around a while you can tell which ones they are pretty easily.

I don't spend a lot of time in MetaTalk*, but this seems to be said about an awful lot of subjects: race, sex, religion, Israel/Palestine, Apple vs Microsoft (/Google), even cycling... almost any topic on which people here are likely to have divergent opinions. The only topics that we do seem to "do well" are those on which virtually all of the userbase already agrees ("The right wing are bad!") and those which are so trivial that no-one actually cares much about the outcome.

We're supposed to be adults, and most of us would probably want to add "educated" and "tolerant" to that. But we need to be steered away from any potentially contentious topics and accept the collapse of those discussions into personal attacks as an inevitable feature of our community? Every time I run across someone saying that a topic is effectively off-limits because we can't be trusted to discuss it like grown-ups, it puts another huge dent into the positive impression of this community that prompted me to join in the first place.

Discussing contentious issues is not at all difficult, even online:
*Assume good faith: before assuming malicious intent, it's possible that a statement was badly phrased or that you've missed some nuance of meaning.
*Cultivate a thick skin: OK, they really did mean something shitty, but what do you gain by being a jerk back? Outclassing someone is way more satisfying than simply yelling louder.
*Remember that it's possible for someone to disagree with you about *all kinds of stuff* without necessarily being a moron and/or evil. Simply dismissing an opponent as a Bad Person achieves nothing; understanding their underlying assumptions and priorities are the first steps to finding common ground and, potentially, talking them around to your side.
*Everyone needs a hug: possibly including you. Guaranteed to be more effective than shouting at strangers on the internet.

The mods generally do a great job of keeping Metafilter as a place where civil discussions are possible (albeit on a limited range of topics). But they shouldn't have to.

*Although still probably more than my boss would approve of.
posted by metaBugs at 12:27 PM on March 29, 2011 [14 favorites]


You gonna kick up the same kinda thread-crapping ruckus whenever someone makes a post about something supernatural someone once believed?


Again, the articles were not a link to MIT's comparative religion course and its disingenuous to keep repeating they were. They were to politicized commentary specifically about disbelief and religious views about homosexuality. Don't be too offended when we discuss disbelief and the religous views of homosexuality, critically, in this thread. It was not an inviitation for the religious mefites to suddenly become defensive, sanctimonious, promote pseudoscience as fact, and be argumentative threadshitters afraid of being argued with and starting a "woe is me" metatalk thread. The idea that the links presented were this calm cool discussion about the wonders of hell through society's myths isn't the case. Lets stop pretending it was.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:28 PM on March 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos : ...I'm fairly certain that most Christians are already acting based on love as opposed to "fear of hell".

I think you are probably right, but I also think that it's a vocal minority using the stick instead of the carrot to convert people or 'other' some groups that give the perception that Christianity as a whole has these beliefs at its core.

Because the Fire and Brimstone preacher makes for better sound-bytes and news clips, I'd imagine.
posted by quin at 12:29 PM on March 29, 2011


I think you are probably right, but I also think that it's a vocal minority using the stick instead of the carrot to convert people or 'other' some groups that give the perception that Christianity as a whole has these beliefs at its core.

The fact that it's a vocal minority is exactly what I've been saying all along, actually.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:31 PM on March 29, 2011


The problem is that they are not merely vocal. They are also powerful and activist. And so not to be taken lightly by anyone outside the fold who treasures their rights.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:34 PM on March 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


The problem is that they are not merely vocal. They are also powerful and activist. And so not to be taken lightly by anyone outside the fold who treasures their rights.

I never said they were to be taken lightly. I only said that they weren't representative of "What Every Christian Believes".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:35 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


CAN I GO OVER THERE YET?
posted by THREAD KILLER at 12:37 PM on March 29, 2011

the changing of communion wafers into divine flesh

That's just Catholics (transubstantiation), not all Christians.
While (arguably) only Catholics profess transubstantiation, it's not the case that it's "just Catholics" who profess "the changing of communion wafers into divine flesh". Certainly the Orthodox also believe this and so do many liturgical Protestants (e.g. some Anglicans).
posted by Jahaza at 12:40 PM on March 29, 2011


I never said they were to be taken lightly. I only said that they weren't representative of "What Every Christian Believes".

No - you absolutely didn't, and I wasn't suggesting that you were. I'm only pointing out why a "vocal minority" gets so much of our attention. Because they have the power. I would say that men who are jackasses are probably also only a vocal minority, but that doesn't mean that we can ignore the pressures of patriarchy on questions of equality. Similarly, although religious oppressors are undoubtedly in the minority, they are nonetheless overwhelmingly in the positions of power, and so when those outside react emotionally it is to this power structure that we react. Those of you with more reasonable views feel attacked. It's unfortunate, but we feel that even in your more measured beliefs you unwittingly give power to those who use faith as weapons. Our fears may be sometimes misdirected, but they are not unreasoned or without merit.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:43 PM on March 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


I only said that they weren't representative of "What Every Christian Believes".

How many millions more Catholics and Evangelicals do we need before I'm allowed to criticize their views on homosexuality? Funny how you have the privilege of moving the goal posts. "Oh, they aren't members of my very narrow interpretation that is ignored when discussions of public policy on abortion or gays rights comes up from Christians of many different denominations." How conviennant for you to keep blaming that "other minor crowd." If anything, its that "other major crowd" and you're the minority.

Lets look some fact facts eh? To those who find religion very important in their lives 70% believe gay marraige should remain a crime. Those who find religion is not important, its the opposite. That's a very strong correlation and as such allows me to criticize Christians in general, not just this mythical minority you keep blaming.

No one is claiming to know what "every Christian" knows, but we can make safe generalizations and see the obvious connection between religion and homophobia.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:43 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lets look some fact facts eh? To those who find religion very important in their lives 70% believe gay marraige should remain a crime. Those who find religion is not important, its the opposite. That's a very strong correlation and as such allows me to criticize Christians in general, not just this mythical minority you keep blaming.

I'm just going to quote Zarq directly, from a few posts down below the one you linked to.

You left out a finding. Of people who agreed that "religion fairly important," 60% thought gay marriage should be legal. The turn against gay marriage only comes about when you're looking at people who very religious. A majority of folks who have what I would guess are reasonably strong religious convictions still approve of gay marriage. So the opponents are probably a fundamentalist minority.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:45 PM on March 29, 2011


Religion? Apple? Science Fiction? Food restrictions?

HAIL ERIS!
posted by Artw at 12:47 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


damn dirty ape, is there a particular reason you're being such a dick to everyone?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:48 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not everyone, just a vocal minority.
posted by fleacircus at 12:49 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm just going to quote Zarq directly, from a few posts down below the one you linked to.

and I'll again quote the article you refuse to read for some reason:

Differences on the issue are also apparent by religious affiliation. Notably, 81% of Americans who claim no religious affiliation favor legal same-sex marriage. That compares to 48% support among Catholics and 33% among Protestants (including those who identify as Christian but do not specify a particular Christian denomination).

So half of Catholics and 2/3rds of Protestants are serious bigots? Thats a win for your team?
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:49 PM on March 29, 2011


Those of you with more reasonable views feel attacked. It's unfortunate, but we feel that even in your more measured beliefs you unwittingly give power to those who use faith as weapons. Our fears may be sometimes misdirected, but they are not unreasoned or without merit.

I would invite you to consider, however, that by couching the argument in terms of "religion vs. not", this actually alienates those who do have more measured beliefs; and a more powerful and workable alternative may be to find a way to work with religious moderates. Instead of "by continuing to believe, you're unwittingly giving power to those who use faith as weapons," why not take the approach, "we know your faith is important to you, and we get that you don't buy what the nutbars are saying, but we wish you'd stand up to them because they're not going to listen to us and they might listen to you," you may win allies.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:50 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'll again quote the article you refuse to read for some reason:

You are mistaken, I read it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:51 PM on March 29, 2011


I'll stop denying the existence of God when people stop going on cycling threads to talk about how cyclists always violate traffic rules.

I have done this. I apologize sincerely. And I'll stop doing it.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:52 PM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


shakespeherian: “damn dirty ape, is there a particular reason you're being such a dick to everyone?”

damn dirty ape is one of a number of atheists, few but proud, who have taken it upon themselves to prove that irrationality, arrogance, and bigotry are not the sole province of religious people, and should be options open to free-thinking human beings as well.
posted by koeselitz at 12:53 PM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


couching the argument in terms of "religion vs. not"

Trust me when I tell you that as a member of the "not" the "argument" is not mine to pick.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:56 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Damn dirty ape, I missed some of the early thread back and forth, but this is the comment that I thought was bigoted. Up to that point I was enjoying what you had to say even if I disagreed with some of it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:57 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Trust me when I tell you that as a member of the "not" the "argument" is not mine to pick.

....Not sure what you mean by this. Can you clarify?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:57 PM on March 29, 2011


Then you have a very thin skin and should stay out that discussion. If me calling faith a poor system of inquiry is bigoted then you are simply off your rocker.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:58 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Miko, I agree that there is wisdom to be derived from fiction, but among that wisdom is the acknowledgement that we are discussing fiction, when facing widespread assertions to the contrary

There are a lot of kinds of wisdom to be derived. I don't think the acknowledgment that we're discussing something fictional is totally necessary to receiving that wisdom. If we're using Huckleberry Finn to examine racism, for instance, we don't need to stop constantly and remind the group "Oh, by the way, this never happened. It's a bunch of claptrap made up by Mark Twain, and that wasn't even his name. This is just some stuff he invented. Sure, go ahead and talk about what you discover within this book about nineteenth-century race relations, freedom, self-determination, loyalty, and betrayal, but it's not real and don't forget it." We can learn from allegorical stories, and reflect on them, without going to the mat asserting that they're either true or not true. Religion can be a process of considerd inquiry just as much, perhaps even more, as it can be a body of received knowledge passively accepted. In terms of the people I know, it's an ethical and reflective system used in practice a lot more often than it is a set of dogmatic principles.
posted by Miko at 1:00 PM on March 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


> Trust me when I tell you that as a member of the "not" the "argument" is not mine to pick.
> posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:56 PM on March 29 [+] [!]

Mmmmm? I don't have a trace of faith in a guy with a long white beard seated in glory up in the clouds, and in my entire life nobody has ever given me any trouble about that. And me living smack in the middle of the Bible belt.
posted by jfuller at 1:11 PM on March 29, 2011


No, calling faith a poor system of inquiry I'd have a hard time finding fault with as a rather faithless atheist myself. If that was the sole intent of the comment, I actually retract my criticism. However, given that the comment only makes sense in the context of prior comments, it can also be read as associating EC's particular religious beliefs with the active dissemination of homophobic viewpoints. Unless you know more about her specific religious background, that appears to be a bigoted assertion. I'm fairly sure I'm not the only person who read it that way, so you may want to clarify.

If you feel that any support of religious faith also support homophobia, I'd also contend that that is bigoted.

If you want to condemn fundamentalist Christianity, especially the American version of biblical literalism, that may be bigoted, but if so, it's a bigotry I share so I'm not likely to call you on it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:12 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you feel that any support of religious faith also support homophobia

The numbers don't lie. There is a strong connection between Christian faith and homophobia, especially in regards to gay marriage.

Call me crazy, but I imagine your holy book itself, which you believe to be the divinely inspired word of god, is the problem:

"Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." -Romans 1:2

"If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them." -Leviticus 20:13
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:17 PM on March 29, 2011


Trust me when I tell you that as a member of the "not" the "argument" is not mine to pick.

....Not sure what you mean by this. Can you clarify?


Again, I would ask you to think in terms of other power dynamics in which you play a different role. Replace the word "atheist" with "woman." Now think about the sexism threads. How does it go over when men come in, even well-meaning men, and try to tell women how they should feel and react to sexism? Except women have a lot more power than atheists these days. And the US has a black president. And even gays have a media presence, however stereotypical. Atheists have no power. If I call myself a Christian, I could get elected to any office in the land, and it wouldn't matter what I actually believe. But I'd have a better chance of getting elected as a Muslim than as an atheist, even in these polarized times.

"religion vs. not" is my reality whether I'm friendly about it or not. I choose to be friendly about it, but I frankly don't see much evidence that having a majority of moderate believers has done much to help.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:18 PM on March 29, 2011 [17 favorites]


If me calling faith a poor system of inquiry is bigoted then you are simply off your rocker.

I'd just like to draw particular attention to this because I see it again and again, and it never fails to bewilder and bemuse me.

Faith is not a rational system of inquiry. It's not supposed to be. Anyone arguing that it is needs their head examined. As a person of faith, I freely concede that my faith is not founded in any provable thesis; faith is a subjective, highly personal experience that does not lend itself well to objective analysis. That's what science and mathematics are for. Faith, and the system of inquiry that springs from it, serves a different purpose and has different conventions.

What confuses me is this assumption that faith not being the same as rational inquiry somehow invalidates it. If I try to bake a cake by pouring the batter into a pot full of boiling water, I won't get a cake. That doesn't make boiling things a poor system of cookery, it just means I've used the wrong method for the outcome I'm chasing after.

What people have done with religion and faith is always a valid subject of criticism because people have done some genuinely vile things with it. But criticizing it on the basis that it's not a rational system of inquiry gives me flashbacks to the humanites vs. hard science flamewars. Apples and oranges, people.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 1:20 PM on March 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


damn dirty ape: “The numbers don't lie. There is a strong connection between Christian faith and homophobia, especially in regards to gay marriage.”

Drawing connections based on statistical correlation is irrational, sometimes disastrously so.

I could say, for example: "The numbers don't like. There is a strong connection between homosexuality and AIDS." But that would be unconscionable and, yes, bigoted. Wouldn't it?
posted by koeselitz at 1:23 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


If I try to bake a cake by pouring the batter into a pot full of boiling water, I won't get a cake.

Oops.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:24 PM on March 29, 2011


To those who find religion very important in their lives 70% believe gay marraige should remain a crime. Those who find religion is not important, its the opposite. That's a very strong correlation and as such allows me to criticize Christians in general, not just this mythical minority you keep blaming.

Actually, it allows you to criticize 70 percent of those who "find religion important" and 30 percent of those who don't. To do anything else would be scientifically inaccurate. No?
posted by philip-random at 1:25 PM on March 29, 2011


The numbers don't lie. There is a strong connection between Christian faith and homophobia, especially in regards to gay marriage.


I don't deny there are a lot of homophobic Christians, but be careful.

1. There is no one "Christian faith." Christianity is a faith group, a high-level taxonomic category, and it contains an immense diversity of different faiths with different beliefs, of which only a very few are common to all.

2. "I imagine your holy book itself, which you believe to be the divinely inspired word of god"

Not all Christians believe that some version of the Bible is "the divinely inspired word of God." Most Christians, in fact, don't live by the Bible or take their beliefs directly from the Bible. Their lives would be insane if they did. Even people in groups that preach the literal truth and divine inspiration of the Bible, in practice adhere to a very watered-down, reshaped, and individualistic interpretation of the Bible. The relationship between Biblical writings and individual practitioners varies a lot - it varies by denomination, inclination, scholarship and philosophy and direct experience. Christian relationships with Biblican texts are in fact one of the things scholars of religion (and religious scholars, not mutually exlusive groups but not identical either) think about as a reasonable topic of inquiry that doesn't always require belief as a pre-requisite for that thinking to take place.

There's no way to pull quotes from the Bible and use them to say "Christians believe...." without immediately buying yourself many exceptions. Almost no living person believes or accepts every statement in the Bible. Those who think they do mostly haven't read it very well or with much comprehension, or believe that something that's happened since its major work was collected excepts them from living according to it. Do some people still use those verses as a bludgeon? Sure. But it's just as possible for a Christian to oppose homophobia as it is to support it, and in fact, many people are motivated to oppose that and other social oppressions by their faith.
posted by Miko at 1:26 PM on March 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


If I try to bake a cake by pouring the batter into a pot full of boiling water, I won't get a cake.

Oops.


I'm not a sophisticated cook, I might have gotten that wrong, but I don't think raw batter in boiling water is going to lead anywhere pleasant.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 1:29 PM on March 29, 2011


and in my entire life nobody has ever given me any trouble about that.

You're pretty lucky. Being repeatedly beat up because I made the mistake of mentioning I didn't believe in god when asked what church I attended was not a fun way to grow up.
posted by the_artificer at 1:29 PM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Book recommendation.


I posted this link on the other thread as well-and as I stated there I have not finished this book yet but it addresses in detail a lot of questions I have seen that thread raise.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:30 PM on March 29, 2011


I also want to point out quickly that I'm not here to argue in favor of atheistic belief or against religious belief. I'm just making a point about the framing of discussion about atheists. I understand that atheistic thought is disproportionately represented on MetaFilter, but I wanted to remind you that this is absolutely not the case IRL, and so when telling us how best to get sympathetic allies, there is an implicit condescension that sometimes galls. Even though I know you don't mean it that way.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:31 PM on March 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


You're pretty lucky. Being repeatedly beat up because I made the mistake of mentioning I didn't believe in god when asked what church I attended was not a fun way to grow up.

Stupid of them to do that, you know. Because that was about as UnChristian an act as one could do.

I'm sorry that happened to you.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:31 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"religion vs. not" is my reality whether I'm friendly about it or not. I choose to be friendly about it, but I frankly don't see much evidence that having a majority of moderate believers has done much to help.

I was responding to the "the argument is not mine to pick". I wasn't sure what you were referring to by "the argument."

For the record, I'm just as pissed off about the moderates as you, and I'm a theist. It's just that we don't seem to get anywhere near as many "atheism boo" conversations in here as we do elsewhere, so I know that any "and that's what I say elsewhere" comment of mine is going to come across sounding like "I've totally got a boyfriend in Canada", but I promise you I'm making those arguments as well. I promise you that there are those theists who are coming from a place of "dude, you're making us look stupid," and that there are more of us than you think.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:31 PM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Faith is not a rational system of inquiry. It's not supposed to be. Anyone arguing that it is needs their head examined.

Much of western philosophy would probably disagree with you.
posted by empath at 1:32 PM on March 29, 2011


We'll try to delete invisible sky minster snark/derail when we see it.

I think we've hit that point in the thread.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:38 PM on March 29, 2011



I think we've hit that point in the thread.


Then please flag it and/or email us about it. Honestly I find those threads totally distasteful and would prefer to pay as little attention to them as possible. If it has gotten to a point where you feel we need to do something specific, please use the tools that are available.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:39 PM on March 29, 2011


I think we've hit that point in the thread.

Thanks to your threadshitting and hysterics.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:41 PM on March 29, 2011


DON'T CLOSE IT THERE ARE RIMJOBS BEING HANDED OUT
posted by THREAD KILLER at 1:42 PM on March 29, 2011


I could say, for example: "The numbers don't like. There is a strong connection between homosexuality and AIDS." But that would be unconscionable and, yes, bigoted. Wouldn't it?

no, it would be an empirical fact.

SCIENCE!
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:43 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks to your threadshitting and hysterics.

Whatever.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:44 PM on March 29, 2011


Defending a fellow atheist is reason enough for religious Mefites to call atheists bigoted. Because of that I have lost faith in most Mefites being able to discern what bigotry means IRL, let alone on a web site.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:45 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks to your threadshitting and hysterics.

I think by the time you get to where you start directly mocking people's religious convictions and telling them to get God to sign up for a Metafilter account and defend herself, you are past the point where you get to pretend that only other people are engaging in problematic behavior.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:45 PM on March 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


Thank you, Jessamyn.
posted by zarq at 1:46 PM on March 29, 2011


Its so crazy to ask for the thing people to believe in which they think is 100% real to comment on things? God is quite vocal in the bible. The idea that its ridiculous to ask god to comment on something is probably proof that inside most religious people is an atheist trying to get out. Or at least an agnostic.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:46 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks, Jessamyn.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:47 PM on March 29, 2011


And my apologies for contributing to the derail.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:48 PM on March 29, 2011


damn dirty ape: "Its so crazy to ask for the thing people to believe in which they think is 100% real to comment on things? God is quite vocal in the bible. The idea that its ridiculous to ask god to comment on something is probably proof that inside most religious people is an atheist trying to get out. Or at least an agnostic."

Now you're just doing victory laps while shouting, "Neener neener neener!" I'm not sure I want to give you that rimjob now.
posted by charred husk at 1:49 PM on March 29, 2011


Thanks to your threadshitting and hysterics.

I'd appreciate if you could be constructive if you're going to bring this to MetaTalk.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:49 PM on March 29, 2011


I apologize in advance for this, because tempers are clearly running a bit hot, but:

Metafilter: threadshitting and hysterics... Whatever.

Sorry.

posted by quin at 1:50 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Its so crazy to ask for the thing people to believe in which they think is 100% real to comment on things?

Please stop behaving this way. I am not sure what you think you are gaining.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:50 PM on March 29, 2011


damn dirty ape, you spout your rhetoric with the zeal of a convert.
posted by Mister_A at 1:51 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


[placeholder joke about rimjobs]
posted by desjardins at 1:53 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not a sophisticated cook, I might have gotten that wrong, but I don't think raw batter in boiling water is going to lead anywhere pleasant.

1. Bagels
2. Dumplings
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:54 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


CALVINISTS!
posted by clavdivs at 1:56 PM on March 29, 2011


WHERE???!!!?
posted by Mister_A at 1:58 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


*hides*
posted by rtha at 1:58 PM on March 29, 2011


I'm not a sophisticated cook, I might have gotten that wrong, but I don't think raw batter in boiling water is going to lead anywhere pleasant.

1. Bagels
2. Dumplings


Noodles!
posted by rtha at 1:59 PM on March 29, 2011


Boiled batter puddin', yo.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:01 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Noodely appendages!
posted by futz at 2:01 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't bear to read the thread, because by now it is an exhaustingly perennial conversation in which new things are very rarely said, but is there anything to be learned here? Was there a point at which the vocal athiest contingent began popping in with assertions, but at which the people discussing the FPP content could have glazed right on over and continued discussing the content? I do feel like we don't get much of anywhere in these discussions, and that some athiests (not all) see any mention of anything related to some religions (not all) as an invitation to share their worldview. And maybe we who want to discuss things like, oh Norse Sagas or the persecution of Uighurs or whatever that are not entirely centered on material reality and involve some other thought system just need better skill at not taking up the gauntlet when vocal hyperrationalists appear and insert themselves into the discussion, making themselves the topic.

Though there is a certain legitimate point of view that those folks have, and I'm sympathetic to the experience of feeling oneself as being on the outside in American culture*, I do think there is also an opportunistic interest in trying to stir the pot in threads about religious topics. Otherwise I'm not sure why a post about Steve Martin's athiest hymn from just a few days ago, which you would think would be a delightful and welcoming opportunity for athiests to get together and discuss their views on reality in the company of the likeminded, would get only 24 comments, whereas the Hell thread and this related MeTa draw a flurry of hundreds. There's much more a lure to places where you can find an opposition, it's much more exciting to debate, but you can only do it if someone takes you up on your challenge.

On the other hand, I've just reviewed the beginning of the thread, and it was a shitshow from the start. It's hard to identify any point where it could have gone differently, because there's a lot of ignorance and weirdly unrelated comments and generalizations thrown into the mix - it was a very unfocused discussion. I guess I would say that in addition to using the flags when needed and playing by the basic rules of the road here, those who want to discuss topics that argumentative athiests want to come in and loudly deplore might just have to get better at ignoring those attempts.

If you think it's lonely being an athiest, try being a left-wing Christian sometime. Disdain from all!
posted by Miko at 2:02 PM on March 29, 2011 [16 favorites]


> You're pretty lucky. Being repeatedly beat up because I made the mistake of mentioning I
> didn't believe in god when asked what church I attended was not a fun way to grow up.
> posted by the_artificer at 4:29 PM on March 29 [+] [!]

You made the same mistake repeatedly? Over the entire course of growing up? Forgive my scrutinizing this, but it seems as if something is being elided here.
posted by jfuller at 2:05 PM on March 29, 2011


Spätzle, and soft pretzels.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:06 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


argumentative athiests

I believe the term you're looking for is "uppity."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:07 PM on March 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


jfuller, I assume the_artificer meant that he or she was beaten several times for the admission, not that he or she went around sticking it in everyone's face.
posted by Mister_A at 2:07 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks mods, for putting up with the craziness and not banning all of us.

Yet
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:09 PM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Miko, my wife feels your pain. Being a left wing Catholic with liberation theology leanings given the current pope is not so great.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:10 PM on March 29, 2011


I believe the term you're looking for is "uppity."

IRFH, you're usually a pretty funny guy, but that's an extremely unhelpful and borderline offensive comparison to make.
posted by dersins at 2:10 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


A post about religion is just too "inside baseball" for discussion here. That's why they always devolve into a the same hackneyed reasons why the Yankees suck...so to speak.
posted by klarck at 2:11 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


....I actually found a way to bring up Star Trek as an analogy in the original thread.

Which just amused me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:11 PM on March 29, 2011


It's Raining Florence Henderson: " I believe the term you're looking for is "uppity.""

Flo, I love ya man. But you're not helping.
posted by zarq at 2:11 PM on March 29, 2011


No, I don't mean uppity. You can call me argumentative too; after all, I am. I don't mean it pejoratively.
posted by Miko at 2:11 PM on March 29, 2011


A post about religion is just too "inside baseball" for discussion here.

Yeah, but there's all kinds of posts about things I don't know jack about - I dunno, Minecraft, Cthulhu. I just don't participate in those threads because I'm not going to have much that's useful or informed to say.
posted by Miko at 2:14 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


IRFH, you're usually a pretty funny guy, but that's an extremely unhelpful and borderline offensive comparison to make.

If a couple black American atheists tell me that's an offensive comparison I'll definitely take it to heart. It is unhelpful in the sense of being polarizing though.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:14 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


jfuller, I assume the_artificer meant that he or she was beaten several times for the admission, not that he or she went around sticking it in everyone's face.

Yeah that first one. It only needed to happen once, small towns are fun that way.
posted by the_artificer at 2:16 PM on March 29, 2011


I don't think raw batter in boiling water is going to lead anywhere pleasant Donuts?

No, wait, those require oil. Never mind.
posted by epersonae at 2:16 PM on March 29, 2011


I think the uppity comment wasn't meant as a dig, but was meant as how other more conservative types might perceive one.

Also, as a white-skinned Muslim who has been mistaken as everything from a holy man to a terrorist traitor, I got lefty Christians beat.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:19 PM on March 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm not trying to be funny and I'm not trying to help things go smoothly and feel nice. I'm trying to get a point across to people who I believe are capable of seeing it if they will shift out of their position of privilege long enough to listen to what they are saying. Miko, whom I have many times maintained is one of the best of MeFites, is here telling us in which threads we are welcome to bring our viewpoints. Such a comment would be loudly derided from a man in a sexism thread or a white in a racism thread. Why is it not offensive to more of us here, however well intended? I'm not asking for anything other than that you look again at what is being said by whom to whom.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:19 PM on March 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Religion is a contentious and fighty subject. Given its nature and widespread effect, this is not in the least surprising. Wherever religious belief is raised, the likelihood of a punch-up is high to inevitable . Trying to stop that happening is playing Canute, I'm afraid.

Atheism is boring when it's convinced it's correct.

I'd rather be boring than incorrect.
posted by Decani at 2:20 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Being a left wing Catholic with liberation theology leanings given the current pope is not so great.

As long as people like your wife keep writing checks supporting the Catholic Church there will never be change.
posted by mlis at 2:21 PM on March 29, 2011


As long as people like your wife keep writing checks supporting the Catholic Church there will never be change.

May I ask why you are so certain that BrotherCaine's wife is in fact "writing checks supporting the Catholic church"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:22 PM on March 29, 2011


Not all Christians believe that some version of the Bible is "the divinely inspired word of God." Most Christians, in fact, don't live by the Bible or take their beliefs directly from the Bible. Their lives would be insane if they did. Even people in groups that preach the literal truth and divine inspiration of the Bible, in practice adhere to a very watered-down, reshaped, and individualistic interpretation of the Bible.

Yeah, but them it comes down to prosecutorial priestly discretion.

If both Texas and Michigan have laws against homosexual sodomy in 2003 (and they did, laws based on the Bible!), you could probably rely on Michigan cops not arresting you for being gay, or at least that if the cops did arrest you, the prosecutor wouldn't charge.

But in Texas, Harris County sheriff's deputy Joseph Quinn did enter John Lawrence's apartment, and arrest him and Tyron Garner for "Homosexual Conduct".

And today, they both would be registered sex offenders, had the US Supreme Court not ruled the Texas statute unconstitutional, reversing the Courts own ruling in Bowers fourteen years earlier.

Leviticus is the "law on the books", and until Christianity explicitly rejects it, any priest, preacher, pontiff, or presbyter can decide that it's once again time to "enforce the law".

And the worse times get, more literal-minded believers get, the less time they have for sophisticated arguments about what Good "really meant" or the "socio-temporal context" of Levictus.

posted by orthogonality at 2:22 PM on March 29, 2011


klarck : A post about religion is just too "inside baseball" for discussion here. That's why they always devolve into a the same hackneyed reasons why the Yankees suck...so to speak.

I have to disagree with you, I made a post last year that discussed Christianity, Right wing politics, abortion and homosexuality, which I figured had the potential to melt down and take the entire internet with it.

Surprisingly, it mostly went the other way and had a lot of really quality discussion.

Which is why I scoff when people say that "[blank] is something Metafilter doesn't do well". Metafilter can discuss anything well, if everyone is willing to participate and listen in equal measures.
posted by quin at 2:23 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


THREAD KILLER: CAN I GO OVER THERE YET?

I'm not a religious man, but I pray that this unfunny shtick stops soon.
posted by gman at 2:23 PM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'd rather be boring than incorrect

We need to have a beer on this topic.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:24 PM on March 29, 2011


Re: thread killer, I think it is pretty obvious who it is.
posted by futz at 2:24 PM on March 29, 2011


in Texas, Harris County sheriff's deputy Joseph Quinn did enter John Lawrence's apartment, and arrest him and Tyron Garner for "Homosexual Conduct".

And today, they both would be registered sex offenders, had the US Supreme Court not ruled the Texas statute unconstitutional, reversing the Courts own ruling in Bowers fourteen years earlier.


I think that what people are trying to say is "that action says more about Joseph Quinn than it does about Leviticus."

Leviticus is the "law on the books", and until Christianity explicitly rejects it, any priest, preacher, pontiff, or presbyter can decide that it's once again time to "enforce the law".

There are indeed denomoinations that do reject it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:25 PM on March 29, 2011


The important thing is that if you are sure of your correctness your behavior is excusable.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:26 PM on March 29, 2011


(not directed at anyone in particular; just the moral gleamed from this thread.)
posted by Navelgazer at 2:28 PM on March 29, 2011


Miko...is here telling us in which threads we are welcome to bring our viewpoints.

No, I'm not. I'm actually suggesting maybe the burden is on the people who want to discuss a given topic to go ahead and discuss it, and try not to get derailed by people who want to discuss another, more expansive topic. In other words, you're welcome to bring your worldview anywhere, but if people want to talk about something else, maybe they should learn to better ignore the sidebars and carry on.

I'm not trying to be offensive, but it's hard to understand why people wanting to talk about something religious in nature need to draw such intense criticism, or why they should be required to respond to broad-based attacks on religious ideas they don't even agree with and aren't discussing. If they aren't required to respond, and I don't think they are, I'm suggesting that then maybe they just shouldn't.
posted by Miko at 2:29 PM on March 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Thanks, Miko. That's a very different emphasis than I was reading in your earlier comment, and totally reasonable, as usual. My apologies for the uncharitable reading. I should have know better. Sorry all - I'll piss off for awhile (because I should).
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:33 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not trying to be offensive, but it's hard to understand why people wanting to talk about something religious in nature need to draw such intense criticism, or why they should be required to respond to broad-based attacks on religious ideas they don't even agree with and aren't discussing. If they aren't required to respond, and I don't think they are, I'm suggesting that then maybe they just shouldn't.

If MeFi had threaded comments, it would be a lot easier for two sides to ignore each other.
posted by empath at 2:34 PM on March 29, 2011


There are passages with surprising decency in Leviticus, too. But those get passed over by the DB evangelical set.
posted by norm at 2:35 PM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm not trying to be a jerk either. I apologize for any bad feeling I may have caused.
posted by Miko at 2:35 PM on March 29, 2011


no, it would be an empirical fact

Nevertheless I shall love whomsoever I want to.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:36 PM on March 29, 2011


Miko: "and try not to get derailed by people who want to discuss another, more expansive topic. "

It's hard to talk over the noise. Also, I know I'm often concerned that ignoring someone in thread, especially when they're addressing / challenging me directly, will lead to accusations that I'm avoiding discussion.

It's a no-win situation. Those who threadshit and derail likely drive off rational, calm discussion. Frankly, I'm amazed that Empress hung in as long as she did. If I were here, I would hope I'd have simply walked away before the conversation devolved into personal attacks.
posted by zarq at 2:39 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I were her. Not "here."
posted by zarq at 2:39 PM on March 29, 2011


Atheism is boring when it's convinced it's correct.

I'd rather be boring than incorrect.
posted by Decani


You're focusing on the wrong word. The key is not to be convinced, because as we all know, convictions cause convicts.
posted by philip-random at 2:40 PM on March 29, 2011


Otherwise I'm not sure why a post about Steve Martin's athiest hymn from just a few days ago, which you would think would be a delightful and welcoming opportunity for athiests to get together and discuss their views on reality in the company of the likeminded, would get only 24 comments, whereas the Hell thread and this related MeTa draw a flurry of hundreds.

I haven't participated in that thread, but my own experience is probably not unlike others here in that I have been surrounded by religion most of my life, and on the topic of Hell in particular have sometimes felt an unspoken implication that my atheism and beliefs and lifestyle (and for others even sexual orientations) are deserving of eternal suffering. It's tough growing up in an environment where everyone goes to church because it's the good thing to do by God, except for you who stays home. Religion unfortunately can affect even the non-religious quite personally.

Also, the "views on reality" of other atheists really aren't interesting in themselves in the context of atheism. Atheism really doesn't mean much outside of not believing in God, and atheists too can believe all sorts of crazy things. It's not really a community like religions often are.
posted by Hoopo at 2:48 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's sort of a hard problem, zarq. I understand the desire of committed athiests not to be brushed off or minimized and recognize that, in the broader society, that view is a hard one to espouse in public life But I also understand the desire of theists not to be held responsible for everything awful other, different theists might do, and not to be called stupid for choosing to think about things that aren't material in nature. It would be nice if we could have both things. I don't think there are many, if any, athiest-hating believers here on MeFi, and I sometimes feel that believers end up serving as stand-ins for every negative experience athiests have had with non-believers as the athiests let both barrels fly at them. But they aren't the same people, and I don't think people on MeFi who want to talk about religious-type things are seeking to oppress nonbelievers. There are bound to be some real differences of opinion, but neither side is stupid, or deserves to be attacked for what some third party not even present here might believe.
posted by Miko at 2:50 PM on March 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


I know I'm often concerned that ignoring someone in thread, especially when they're addressing / challenging me directly, will lead to accusations that I'm avoiding discussion.

Sometimes there is simply no way to avoid having people accuse you of things, and I'm speaking as someone who knows this acutely.

I'd rather, personally, be accused of avoiding fighty discussion than being someone who keeps a fight going. There is a small subset of members who seem to have a problem walking away from a fight because someone has asked them something or demanded citations or whatever the thing is. Often taking this sort of back and forth [if it's really just one or two users engaging in it] is a good thing to either take to email or drop until such a time as people calm down. Having a bigger picture idea of the thread as a large entity that is for everyone sometimes helps me stop feeling like I need to reply to each and every thing [unless it's MeTa and I feel it's more my job to continually reply and even that I've tried to tone down]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:53 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


You don't get to decide how other people discuss things. If you want a conversation on your own terms, post your thoughts on your blog and then moderate the comments. There'll always be someone who wants to go argue about big bangs and atoms in order to prove that NBC's Community is overrated. Answer or ignore pretty much covers your options.
posted by doublehappy at 3:09 PM on March 29, 2011


I've been an atheist from earliest memory, but (bit later, obviously, wasn't much in the precociousness stakes) also very interested by early modern thought, which included the religious debates about whether all were saved or just an elect and more. Further, I think those debates set patterns for later thinking that remain relevant even when the underlying premises have been rejected or have changed in other ways. So yes, definitely a subject I think can profitably be explored on its merits regardless of your broader views on religion qua religion.
posted by Abiezer at 3:20 PM on March 29, 2011


Frustrating to see atheists blamed for a derail that included many enthusiastic non-atheist contributions (no offense, EC). Also frustrating to see people policing "off-topic" contributions or labeling subjects "derails" when they are, in fact, on topic. The rabbi's article was more nuanced than just a simplistic "hell: yes or no?" and belief in hell is part of a larger Christian belief system. Excluding those ideas from discussion is overly controlling.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:31 PM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Answer the question zarq!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:32 PM on March 29, 2011


It all seems to be a matter of which conversations we choose. There are plenty of good points raised and ignored in this and other threads. Valid questions directed at specific comments often languish unanswered. Obviously the mechanisms by which we choose to respond are different depending on who we are, but we often see the busiest combatants choosing again and again to address relatively thoughtless or insulting comments at the expense of points worth consideration. Of course, our choices of what to consider in silence and what to address with a comment are also inscrutable, but it's hard not to come away with a sense that sometimes the more vocal of us are choosing the easiest fights. This is as inevitable as it is frustrating; in the foggy shadows behind the bickering we can just barely perceive great and interesting masses of intellect choosing, rather than to respond to thoughtful inquiry, to waste their energy and our time penis-fencing with weasels.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 3:32 PM on March 29, 2011


Miko: "Yeah, it's sort of a hard problem, zarq. I understand the desire of committed athiests not to be brushed off or minimized and recognize that, in the broader society, that view is a hard one to espouse in public life

I do too. Am very sympathetic to them for it, and tbh my own background isn't that much different from theirs.

But I also understand the desire of theists not to be held responsible for everything awful other, different theists might do, and not to be called stupid for choosing to think about things that aren't material in nature.

Very true.

It would be nice if we could have both things.

Sometimes we do. Wish that happened more frequently, though. I've seen quite a few fascinating and articulate discussions over the years from Mefites who, through questioning, were led to explain and defend their positions on various issues and beliefs. Over the years I've learned a great deal from Pater Aletheias, for example.

I don't think there are many, if any, athiest-hating believers here on MeFi, and I sometimes feel that believers end up serving as stand-ins for every negative experience athiests have had with non-believers as the athiests let both barrels fly at them.

But they aren't the same people, and I don't think people on MeFi who want to talk about religious-type things are seeking to oppress nonbelievers. There are bound to be some real differences of opinion, but neither side is stupid, or deserves to be attacked for what some third party not even present here might believe.
"

Completely agree.
posted by zarq at 3:42 PM on March 29, 2011


If religion has evolved (like language, say), then atheists have to figure out something legitimate to do with the parts of their minds and brains which have evolved with and for religion-- that, or face a well-grounded accusation of being in denial of their own basic humanity.

I see religious people today the way I regard alchemists of the Middle Ages, as having hold of something which will prove to be of the utmost importance to everyone on the planet as we develop better ways of doing it and thinking about it, but which has-- tragically-- poisoned many of its practitioners as they labor away at it in our relative ignorance.
posted by jamjam at 3:59 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


You don't get to decide how other people discuss things.

This is true, but there's a long and fine tradition in MeTa of trying to get the community to get along better with itself and to try to come up with solutions or ideas for problems that continually recur. The long-lived ongoing fight in every religious thread is something that I think most people would like to see less of, so talking about that is a good idea.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:07 PM on March 29, 2011


then atheists have to figure out something legitimate to do with the parts of their minds and brains which have evolved with and for religion-- that, or face a well-grounded accusation of being in denial of their own basic humanity.

I don't follow here. Atheism isn't a refutation of meaning. We're not all nihilists.
posted by Hoopo at 4:14 PM on March 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


jessamyn: " Sometimes there is simply no way to avoid having people accuse you of things, and I'm speaking as someone who knows this acutely.

I'd rather, personally, be accused of avoiding fighty discussion than being someone who keeps a fight going. There is a small subset of members who seem to have a problem walking away from a fight because someone has asked them something or demanded citations or whatever the thing is. Often taking this sort of back and forth [if it's really just one or two users engaging in it] is a good thing to either take to email or drop until such a time as people calm down.


You're right, it is better to avoid than not. I do try to walk away from threads or debates when I feel a conversation is going nowhere, or if I just don't have anything more to contribute. Sometimes, that's meant a conversation gets escalated in Memail, but that's been happening a lot less lately.

Perhaps we'd all be better off walking away a little more frequently when things get too heated.

Having a bigger picture idea of the thread as a large entity that is for everyone sometimes helps me stop feeling like I need to reply to each and every thing [unless it's MeTa and I feel it's more my job to continually reply and even that I've tried to tone down]"

That sort of holistic perspective is hard to keep in mind when you're debating with someone! :) It's a good idea to keep in mind, though. Thanks for it.
posted by zarq at 4:15 PM on March 29, 2011


If religion has evolved (like language, say), then atheists have to figure out something legitimate to do with the parts of their minds and brains which have evolved with and for religion-- that, or face a well-grounded accusation of being in denial of their own basic humanity.

No they don't. All kinds of false beliefs have been a useful part of human evolution, like the belief that people who look like you deserve protection, and people who look different deserve to be run out of town. Even the desire to rape has an evolutionary advantage, but I don't have to justify my lack of raping things.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:16 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: "Answer the question zarq!"

42!
posted by zarq at 4:18 PM on March 29, 2011


I've been agnostic for as long as I've been allowed to choose my own path, but I really found Pater Aletheias' comment on Christian interpretations of hell to be extremely informative.
posted by gman at 4:22 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


...as having hold of something which will prove to be of the utmost importance to everyone on the planet...

Maybe I'm missing your point but I think we already have this and it's not that complicated: it's called being aware of the interconnectedness of all things. Maybe someday the believers and/or the scientists will figure out why that's the case but for now it seems a viable and inarguable belief system for all.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 4:28 PM on March 29, 2011


42!

Oh my god. What is wrong with you? The answer is Ghostbusters II!

Or...pie. The answer could be pie.
posted by rtha at 4:30 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for pointing that out, gman.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:32 PM on March 29, 2011


You're focusing on the wrong word. The key is not to be convinced, because as we all know, convictions cause convicts.
posted by philip-random at 10:40 PM on March 29


Ha ha teh funneh soundbite. And as we also know, atheists are seriously under-represented in prison, when compared with their proportion in general population. Try again.
posted by Decani at 4:34 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


>> then atheists have to figure out something legitimate to do with the parts of their minds and brains which have evolved with and for religion-- that, or face a well-grounded accusation of being in denial of their own basic humanity.

> I don't follow here. Atheism isn't a refutation of meaning. We're not all nihilists.

Or, oblig xkcd.
posted by epersonae at 4:34 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: "I think we can all agree that matzoh made with the blood of Palestinian babies is by far the tastiest.

Baked or steamed?
"

Deep fried in bacon fat.
posted by deborah at 4:37 PM on March 29, 2011


then atheists have to figure out something legitimate to do with the parts of their minds and brains which have evolved with and for religion-- that, or face a well-grounded accusation of being in denial of their own basic humanity.

Yuh! And monkeys have to figure out something legitimate to do with the parts of their minds and brains which have evolved with and for shit-hurling and random masturbation-- that, or face a well-grounded accusation of being in denial of their own basic monkeyness!

Unbelievable. Just unbe-fucking-lievable.
posted by Decani at 4:38 PM on March 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


My answer is...
Death. No, wait. Boiled cake! I meant boiled cake please!
posted by iamkimiam at 4:38 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"That is why, if you want to take belief off the table, you're basically talking about cataloging and coping with an unpleasant afterlife. I'm not being flip about the Inferno (and its derivatives) — once you start to consider a Hell, you begin to wonder what portions of it would be more or less miserable, how it might work, and so forth. Oh, yeah, "This has been willed where what is willed must be," got to remember that. What is the nature of oblivion? If I do land in What Dreams May Come, couldn't we engineer a scheme to get everyone out? I mean, if you can do it once ..."

Just to respond to what I think was a pretty well reasoned comment, what I object to isn't discussing the nature of faith (well, I object to bad arguments when discussing the nature of faith, but that's a lot more general), but rather the sense of referendum that does come with these threads, where instead of a discussion it ends up being everyone just shouting THIS I BELIEVE.

I've been reading the Oxford History of Prisons lately, and I think that I've noticed some neat context for discussions about punishment in Christian history, both with Roman law and early church law, and I think they tie into how Hell is discussed in interesting ways. But after say, DU's early comment in the thread about an invisible sky daddy, I thought, y'know, fuck it, if that's the level of comment, I'll just read the links and stay out of it because stupidity can be pernicious and I've got other shit to do.
posted by klangklangston at 4:39 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reasonable Christians, I empathize with you. As an atheist, threads like this remind me that I'd rather not be judged by the well-known and vocal members who I'm lumped in with (the Dawkins types) any more than you want to be judged by the conservative Evangelical crowd.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:42 PM on March 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


rtha: "42!

Oh my god. What is wrong with you? The answer is Ghostbusters II!

Or...pie. The answer could be pie.
"

No, I think you were right the first time.
posted by zarq at 4:45 PM on March 29, 2011


deborah: " Deep fried in bacon fat."

And slathered with cheese, please.
posted by zarq at 4:48 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


42!

You're not getting that whole "ignore and walk" thing eh?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:05 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


:)
posted by zarq at 5:16 PM on March 29, 2011


How is a discussion of hell and the afterlife capable of being disentangled from the nature of belief? Hell and afterlife are items of belief -- you can't do what you're asking unless you ask something extremely narrow and academic, like how were Chaucer's views on the afterlife influenced by the ancient Egyptians.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:17 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a difference between acknowledging that notions of the afterlife are intertwined with the nature of belief and what happened in that thread, which was mostly ignoring the topic and using it as an excuse to say why religious people are stupid and believe stupid things.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:31 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just my rupee .50, but I'd bet that a lot of the religion haters (myself included) have some vague awareness of Dominionism, and it's subtle but pernicious influence on nearly everything the USA has become since around 1980. It may not be THE boogyman for reals and all, but it's there, sort of a backdrop to a play that might, somehow, affect one's life.

There seems to be a growing feeling among non-believers that there's something fundamentally "out-to-get-you" about religion in the US now, and that may be driving some of the more virtuosic commentary. We humans are bad at assessing risk and tend to see outliers with extreme consequences as more dangerous. The fear of some kind of Handmaiden's Tale future is definitely in this latter category, so I can sort of understand where the comments in that thread are coming from.

Presuming, of course, that Dominionism is in fact an unlikely outlier future :)
posted by digitalprimate at 5:36 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"There's a difference between acknowledging that notions of the afterlife are intertwined with the nature of belief and what happened in that thread, which was mostly ignoring the topic and using it as an excuse to say why religious people are stupid and believe stupid things."

The stuff you specifically criticized in-thread was arguably on-topic, even if we consider the topic "how does belief in hell affect the behavior of those who believe?" instead of "people believe stuff".
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:41 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hell is threaded comments on a geocities site with a comic book guy moderater at 28k dial up running Windows ME with shitty frozen pizza and flat coke. On a Monday.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:54 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, shit. Brandon Blatcher just converted me! Anything but that!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:56 PM on March 29, 2011


I got 21 grams of soul inside the void in my heart that people try to fill with money and stuff and Richard Dawkins books.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:00 PM on March 29, 2011


Seriously, as a catholic altar boy, he'll never made much sense to me. Well, neither did heaven. "What are we going to do for all eternity, Sister Theresa? 'cause praising God 24/7 doesn't sound that fun. Couldn't we play Monopoly? That'll kill some time, right? Maybe learn that game poker too? Mom and Dad play that a lot on Saturday night, but call it stripe poker. It doesn't sound fun though, lots of huffin' and puffin', I guess they're moving stripes of something? I dunno, just saying heaven sounds kinda boring. What? Yes, I know where the principal's office is, why? Oh."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:08 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, I was altar boy, what of it? Weddings paid well and I got wear a long red dress.

Of course I drank the holy wine and ate the body of Christ by the handful. Was hungry.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:11 PM on March 29, 2011


The stuff you specifically criticized in-thread was arguably on-topic

Really the thing that I objected to was someone saying 'We still get to hate fags right?' as if that is a good way to go about having any conversation about anything.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:14 PM on March 29, 2011


I think I deleted that. This site has gotten too big for the "I'm gonna make a joke in the voice of the bad guys" sort of comments to really work most of the time.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:22 PM on March 29, 2011


I'm an atheist but when the first few comments are 'hah, INVISIBLE SKY WIZARD' it doesn't make me want to keep reading the thread. It just sounds smug.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:24 PM on March 29, 2011


or: I don't believe in Hell, but my views on Hell don't stop there. I've got opinions on what it means, its depictions in art, etc. I'd like to hear from theologians in the matter. 'HAHA GOD!' isn't the best use of that
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:25 PM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have serious issues sometimes with so-called TECHNO music. Don't get me wrong. I love some of it. I just find that there's a certain kind of techno-fan who has no interest in ANY other kind of music. That is, if it doesn't have a bomp-bomp-bomp electronic bassline that FORCES you to move, if it isn't completely comprised of machine generated (or sampled) sounds, then it's not worth listening to, or even acknowledging. This narrow, close-minded, culturally xenophobic attitude usually found in otherwise decent, sensitive, creative people drives me a special kind of crazy.

Yeah, i hate dance music with a religious fervour. I was thinking of polluting a few of the recent dance threads with my rants, but figured that would just be annoying and counterproductive.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:31 PM on March 29, 2011


Everyone should be agnoist but leaning towards God being, just in case. It'll prevent an awkward conversation later.

"oh you're real. Well that's just fucking great, real nice. Would it have killed you to phone, send a text and let me know?! No, fuck that "it's a matter of choice' shit, you sound just like Bonnie, that girl I dated in Boston. She'd say "oh it's your choice" regarding the threesome and then get pissed when I made the choice she didn't like. Shit, if she wanted a girl, she should have said so! I was just trying something different, so what? Anyway, you're pulling that same shit, you bastard. At least Satan is straight forward and doesn't pull the passive/aggressive guilt trip. What are you, a Jewish/Italian mother?!"

"Anyway. How 'bout you just let me ease past these gates and I promise not to eat the body and blood of Christ anymore, what say? Oh, and believe in you, of course."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:33 PM on March 29, 2011


Really the thing that I objected to was someone saying 'We still get to hate fags right?' as if that is a good way to go about having any conversation about anything.

That was me, and it was my succinct way of saying what I later expended on. And yes, I do think it accurately characterizes some Christians. Such as the 70% of who respondents who think that "religion [is] very important," and that gay marriage should be illegal.

Some Christian's Christianity is about love, of Jesus, and of neighbors.

Others seem to treat Christianity as an exclusive club of people who are going to Heaven and as such can disparage all the sinners bound for Hell. Sinners who they, the elect, will get to enjoy seeing tortured for all eternity.

Yeah, I think some Christians are in for the hate. Westboro is the extreme example, but they're not a lone aberration: just read up on comments by Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, even "cool, friendly" pastors like Rick Warren and Donnie McClurkin.

And if there's no Hell, well then you can still hate, but without the smug enjoyment of "knowing" that what God has in store for "the fags" is worse than anything you can even imagine. Yeah, and for some Christians haters, that's a real loss.

In mean, if you're convinced you're Heaven-bound, no Hell means no Damned. And no Damned means that those you hate are going to be your Heavenly neighbors. And after you went to such sanctimonious lengths to make sure you were among the Elect.
posted by orthogonality at 6:37 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was very interested in the bit about the Jewish take on hell before getting sucked into the general DDA/EC fight. I didn't have anything insightful to say about it though. For me, when I think about hell I think about it more as a social construct than a theological reality (in the sense that it was brought into being more by historical pressures of church culture than biblical doctrine). It does add some to the drama of religious belief though. Without the contrast there's not the same kind of epic struggle to things (not that focusing on epic struggle at the expense of everyday compassion is a good thing, but hey it probably fills seats in the nave).

then atheists have to figure out something legitimate to do with the parts of their minds and brains which have evolved with and for religion-- that, or face a well-grounded accusation of being in denial of their own basic humanity.

I don't follow here. Atheism isn't a refutation of meaning. We're not all nihilists.


I think this point about the structure of the brain adapting to religious belief should be taken seriously. Even if we atheists have our moments of the numinous outside of religion, it might be a good idea to see if it can be harnessed for either the greater good, or our own sense of mental health. I know my triggers for that sense of being part of the other (for lack of a better term) is triggered by things that are similar to my RCC upbringing. Chanted repetition, or standing in the cathedral like atmosphere of a redwood grove can both trigger that feeling, and it is to some extent calming and refreshing. There's arguably some evidence for the social good of transcendental meditation as well (I haven't researched if there are studies debunking this). The theory being that the calmness and deliberation it brings to its practitioners has a ripple effect on society as a whole through their reactions and interactions.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:44 PM on March 29, 2011


That was me, and it was my succinct way of saying what I later expended on.

Then, with all due respect, I think you probably should have posted your expansion first and simply omitted the unexplained comment with 'fag' in it. Dropping a sarcastic one-liner with offensive language that does not at first glance appear to be related to the thread is not, in my opinion, great for discourse. I appreciate that you expanded on it later, and I understand your argument that it's related to the thread, but I think your original comment was pretty shitty.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:46 PM on March 29, 2011


I came for the metaphysics, I stayed for the trollery.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:47 PM on March 29, 2011


I appreciate that you expanded on it later, and I understand your argument that it's related to the thread, but I think your original comment was pretty shitty.

Yeah, I didn't think it needed such explication.
posted by orthogonality at 6:52 PM on March 29, 2011


then atheists have to figure out something legitimate to do with the parts of their minds and brains which have evolved with and for religion-- that, or face a well-grounded accusation of being in denial of their own basic humanity.

I don't follow here. Atheism isn't a refutation of meaning. We're not all nihilists.


i dunno... i think i've transferred my religious instinct onto quasi-religious rock music. it leads to some backflips and strangeness
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:54 PM on March 29, 2011


orthogonality: “In mean, if you're convinced you're Heaven-bound, no Hell means no Damned. And no Damned means that those you hate are going to be your Heavenly neighbors. And after you went to such sanctimonious lengths to make sure you were among the Elect.”

Pontificate to us one more time about "going to sanctimonious lengths."
posted by koeselitz at 6:57 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I don't understand about these MeTas is the allusions to all the lofty, high-minded theological conversations that everybody would totally be having, if it weren't for those nasty atheists ruining the ambiance. You know you can still talk about all that stuff right? Credit where it's due to Pater Aletheias and the handful of other people who actually make those discussions happen from time to time, but it seems to me that if so many people really wanted to talk about the finer points of theism as much as they wanted to bicker with atheists, they would be doing that instead. If you're content to shout out titles from the greatest hits of fascinating theological dialogue, that's OK too, but don't blame other people because you're not making more profound use of your time.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:32 PM on March 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


You know you can still talk about all that stuff right? Credit where it's due to Pater Aletheias and the handful of other people who actually make those discussions happen from time to time, but it seems to me that if so many people really wanted to talk about the finer points of theism as much as they wanted to bicker with atheists, they would be doing that instead.

So people should just ignore it when something they believe in strongly is wholly mischaracterized and someone accuses them of being foolish just for thinking that something?

....'kay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was a pretty good one, eventually. I really enjoyed this one, too-- I learned a lot.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:38 PM on March 29, 2011


If a shoe fits, by all means, put it on. If someone's offering a shoe that doesn't fit you, say it doesn't fit; don't jam three toes in and blame the cobbler.

If you think people are going out of their way to be insulting, don't go out of your way to meet them.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:41 PM on March 29, 2011


two or three cars parked under the stars: “What I don't understand about these MeTas is the allusions to all the lofty, high-minded theological conversations that everybody would totally be having, if it weren't for those nasty atheists ruining the ambiance.”

Well, for the record, I don't think that's what usually happens. More people are atheists than not on this website, and the larger portion of those people are almost always really awesome contributors; in fact, a good chunk of them are a lot smarter than me. It's just that, in THIS thread, one or two people (who just happened to be atheists) got a bit het up.

I don't pretend I was helping. I think maybe I need to cut the shit and ease up a little.
posted by koeselitz at 7:43 PM on March 29, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: I would say that you certainly can, if you want to, and that yes, you even should, at this point in the story of this community. Especially if atheists are as boring and predictable as people keep saying. It takes two sides to make a derail. And even if you can't help yourself, you can have both discussions. It just doesn't make sense to me that the derail should always take priority over the interesting conversation, unless the conversation wasn't really as interesting to people as they said.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:47 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here is how you frame a post about comparative theology if you want to engender more on-topic intellectual discussion of concepts some might consider fanciful.

It doesn't have to be this massive or link-heavy, but notice the lack of sensationalized, "Guy fired for not believing in hell; film at 11" tone.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:51 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


You make a fair point; by the same token, though, the two or three atheists who do threadshit ( you will note that I'm not saying all atheists do) could also just not do so.

But sometimes both sides are weak. Sometimes it's hard for the threadshitters to resist threadshitting, and sometimes some of the theists have thin skins and can't ignore it.

And sometimes both of those things happen on the same day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:51 PM on March 29, 2011


God said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!"
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
“A sense of obligation.”
posted by inturnaround at 8:02 PM on March 29, 2011


It's pulsating plasma, baby.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:05 PM on March 29, 2011


I'd like to apologize for poking dda with a stick towards the end, there. I wasn't being helpful.
posted by charred husk at 8:06 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd like to apologize for being a dick.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:30 PM on March 29, 2011


I'd like to apologize for having a dick.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 8:35 PM on March 29, 2011


Me too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:35 PM on March 29, 2011


...My comment was in response to the point about BEING a dick.

Arguably, if I HAD another person's dick to play with I might not have BEEN a dick.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:36 PM on March 29, 2011


I don't feel like I was a dick, but I'll apologize for contributing to the derail.
posted by KathrynT at 9:04 PM on March 29, 2011


Well, I sure was a righteous ass. Every comment I left in that thread reads like bile splattered across a concrete wall. Sorry, people.
posted by koeselitz at 9:08 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some people do bile wall splatter divinations. It's more exacting than tea leaves.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:23 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"More people are atheists than not on this website"

I honestly doubt it. But now I'm kind of curious.
posted by bardic at 9:38 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


My parents almost called me Richard, so I guess I could apologize for being almost a dick.
posted by philip-random at 9:50 PM on March 29, 2011


As for fighty LOLXian vs. atheism threads, I appreciate them although I don't participate in them as much as I used to. It's clear to me that they make many Christians and theists here uncomfortable, and that's a good thing. You cling to a belief system that effectively ostracizes and castigates a significant portion of the world's population for not agreeing with you on some bizarre, abstract, and un-proveable notions. That's shitty and you shouldn't do it.

But I've come to appreciate the rhythm of these threads as well. There are usually two types of theism apologists who come along -- the "oh you shrill atheists are such meanies and that's why you can't be taken seriously" and then the "ahem harumph I took a religious studies course in college and if you don't know who Tertullian was then harumph you pitiful atheists aren't allowed to comment on matters of theological importance."

It's basically the "Michael Moore is fat" (non) argument you get on right-wing websites when it comes to politics.

But even if you didn't like it, it was worth it for Pater Alethias' insightful comments which once again confirm my suspicion that 99.5% of Christians don't understand their own fucking holy texts, nor do they even bother to try. That's as amusing as it is sad.
posted by bardic at 9:50 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I bet you are awesome to have at parties.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:05 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just posted a video by two quasi-Christians who use Christian themes constantly and who have probably given me more joy than most of the angry atheists I know. Except Hitchens. I love that guy.

If someone is using religion as an excuse for oppression, call it out. If someone is using religion as an excuse for ignorance, call it out. If someone is using religion to make your life or the lives of others worse, than call them out. When my uncle comes back from Seminary and starts trying to convert me than damn right I debate him with every rhetorical and logical weapon I have. But when my aunt the nun comes over to celebrate Christmas I don't start lecturing about how wrong her faith is.

Even though I have 'converted' most of my immediate family to atheism.

Whatever gets you through the night is alright.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:27 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


No way am I apologizing for this fine love machine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:39 PM on March 29, 2011


Feels like ever more threads are either snarkfests, yet another thing-Metafilter-doesn't-do-well hellfest or dominated by the usual suspects seemingly compelled to comment thousands of times/year and saying something of consequence about .0004 percent of the time.
posted by ambient2 at 10:44 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I bet you are awesome to have at parties."

Where's the mashed potatoes at?
posted by bardic at 10:52 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Feels like ever more threads are either snarkfests, yet another thing-Metafilter-doesn't-do-well hellfest or dominated by the usual suspects seemingly compelled to comment thousands of times/year and saying something of consequence about .0004 percent of the time."

And the portions are so small!
posted by bardic at 10:54 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just popping in to call out zarq for being reasonable and mellow.

I would also like to register my distaste for preemptive derails, whether of the "metafilter doesn't do this well" or the "just wait here comes the angry atheist horde" types. Those kinds of comments don't help anything, yet I see them in almost every one of this sort of thread.
posted by jtron at 11:11 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love it how whenever someone starts shitting on religion in general and derailing a thread a clutch of reasonable atheists pop up to protest the meanness and ignorance of their compatriots while meanwhile protesting that they are actually atheists BTW while wussy liberal religious types hide because they don't want to come off as fundie-bible thumpers.

No sincerely, I love it. I can't think of another place on the web where people get really mad and come to the defense of a point of view they don't even agree with a little bit. Thanks Atheists. In my heaven we're eating waffles forever.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:46 AM on March 30, 2011


In my heaven we're eating waffles forever.

Am I still diabetic? Because then we'd be hanging out in my hell and your heaven at the same time ;)
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:05 AM on March 30, 2011


Wait, I'm late to this . . . Captain Kirk has Alzheimers? Are you serious?
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:00 AM on March 30, 2011


For the particular thread linked, I think the discussion of atheism was inevitable and not a derail, for all the reasons people have already stated. (I do have a lot to say about where things go wrong in atheism discussions that I'll get into after this paragraph.) In particular, rejecting a big idea like hell is often a first step for a Christian on the path to atheism OR an alternate belief system, just depending on how their life goes. It forces one to consider, at some point or other, that they are using their rationality to pick and choose what ideas make sense to them, and the text itself is secondary in some important ways. For some that leads to questioning why they should take any of it on face value at all. This was certainly part of my own path to atheism -- though the final and hardest shove had nothing to do with religion at all -- and I know a handful of other Christians who had the same experience. Just to be clear, I also know Christians that keep on being Christians who don't believe in hell, and Christians that go on to more New Age-y or form their own custom spiritual beliefs, so I'm not saying that it's automatic atheism or anything. But questioning a prominent idea like that is easily a "slippery slope" away from theism, as much as I dislike the negative connotation of that term. It's a relevant discussion, though it may not be immediately obvious to some theists who haven't fallen down the atheism rabbit hole while running from the idea of hell.

I had a comment typed up for that thread this morning where I said in that light, as much as I wish Christians could stop believing in hell and not catch flack for it, it makes sense in a lot of ways -- though not all, since obviously some Christians remain Christians despite not believing in hell -- to fire someone who advocates that hell doesn't exist. I didn't post the comment because it was still early in the thread and I was wary of getting into an atheism debate -- not because it's not relevant, but because it's so unpleasant. I feel much less respected and understood in atheism threads than I do in feminism or homosexuality threads, and this seems to be despite my earnest effort to be empathetic with theists -- which I absolutely am, having been a theist for the majority of my life.

So I guess I'm doing this again, just explaining why things get so messed up in these discussions, in hopes that it will help somehow. I'll start by explaining what it can feel like, socially, to be an atheist, and then go from there to explain why so many atheists act like assholes, and then what can be done to help keep things from spiraling in these discussions.

This is reflective of real life, where I feel more threatened as an atheist than I ever have as a woman or a bisexual -- and if you'll recall, I've felt pretty threatened as a woman. I don't hide my sexuality from anyone, no matter how unaccepting they seem they may be, but I tell almost no one in real life that I'm an atheist because of the awful reactions it gets. And I get those reactions when I say nothing else except that I'm an atheist; I do not argue with people, I do not question or criticize anything they have said and am able to discuss things within their framework since I am familiar with it, I only bring it up if directly asked, and when I say it, I say it apologetically even though I shouldn't have to. The only thing that even begins to compare to the rude and presumptuous responses I get is the kind of reaction that I get when people ask if I intend to have children and I tell them no -- and even that is an order of magnitude rarer and easier to handle than the reactions I get from being an atheist. People look at you with unmitigated horror, start professing how sorry they are for you and how sad your life must be, or in a well-meaning way try to reassure you that you'll find faith again, or that life isn't that bad, or else they try to tell you you're ungrateful for what god has given you and how can you turn his back on him, etc. This has all been much more personalized and insulting than any other form of insult I've ever received in my entire life, and when I have done nothing except say a word they have assumptions about.

Similarly, I have relatives and friends who are constantly saying unprovoked negative things about non-believers, usually in the middle of saying pro-god things, and no one sees this as rude or calls them out on it. By unprovoked, I mean that randomly denouncing those who don't believe is simply part of their positive, affirmative statements about how good god is. It wasn't that anyone came up to them an argued against the existence of god any time recently. Something positive will happen to them, and they'll say something like, "God is good! If you doubt God, it's your own fault bad things happen to you!" or "The Lord has shown me His love today! I feel bad for everyone who doesn't have this in their life!" If asked, I doubt that they would realize how frequently they do it, and some might even feel badly that they've been unconsciously insulting people close to them -- it's theist privilege not to have to think about those kinds of things. Similarly, my gay atheist friend went to a wedding, and had to listen to a sermon about how bad it was that secularism was pervading the world -- instead, for example, a sermon about how nice it was to see people in church. Not only was the priest unconscious or uncaring about the fact that many non-Christians were present at the wedding, there is a tendency to couch things in terms of anti-secularism or anti-atheism instead of merely pro-theism.

If people said such negative things about women, minorities, or homosexuals, it would be contemptible and the people who did it would be called out on their backward thinking. But this is rarely the case when someone carelessly and deeply insults atheists, and with such automatic lack of forethought that it is all the more clearer how deeply entrenched anti-atheist sentiment is. I'm reminded of the Dragon Age thread where privilege was framed in terms of not noticing how society always caters to you, and then complaining the rare times it doesn't. Theists simply don't tend to notice how atheists are casually insulted, and without instigation, simply in everyday conversation -- and then they tend to get irritated when atheists speak up on the rare occasions where there is an outlet, because they -- not maliciously, just instinctively -- want to keep that outlet for themselves too.

And not only that, women have male allies, minorities have allies in the majority, and homosexuals have straight allies. Atheists, for the most part, only have themselves. Keep that in mind, because I'll come back to it.

I am not saying that the majority of theists react poorly to being made aware that they're in the presence of an atheist. I have no way of knowing that, because, as I've said, I've gotten such overblown, insulting negative reactions so often, and from people who don't even go to church -- I've never told a church-goer I'm an atheist -- that I simply avoid the issue. I have literally just pretended to be Christian or a theist a lot of the time because the possible consequences of honesty are too out of proportion -- and for comparison, I have never in my life pretended to be straight. For those of you familiar with the feminism thread I linked, it's a parallel situation where a lot of guys don't understand why women get so anxious and angry about some things; if you're a theist, you don't often get to see what atheists go through, and though perhaps the majority of people would be perfectly accepting or at least tactful enough not to comment, those that are unaccepting are much more vocal and memorable -- traumatizing, sometimes, no exaggeration -- so as to encourage silence and coerced dishonesty in some atheists.

And you cannot, really, cannot explain your frame of mind without making most theists feel defensive and attacked -- and this is not even a character flaw on the part of theists, it's simply the nature of the situation. I am the first to admit that many atheists do a poor, tactless job of expressing themselves -- and I'm getting to that later -- but the very nature of the issue makes even the most empathetic, tactful phrasing liable to push someone's buttons. I have given this a lot of serious thought, for years, and it has not helped overmuch. Take, for example, this phrasing, which is as value-free as I can make it without hiding the fact that I'm an atheist:

(When asked why I'm an atheist) "I just don't see a reason to believe why there would be a god."
How this reads to some people, no matter how friendly or detached I keep my tone: "You believe things with no proof, therefore you are stupid."

This is absolutely not what I think. I know too many brilliant theists, the majority of people are theists, and I was once theist myself, so I understand that being a theist has nothing to do with being stupid. Furthermore, I reacted the same way when I was a theist, despite having no negative experience with atheists to have made me that way, so I am completely sympathetic to even their defensiveness! But nonetheless this will, in my experience, set people off. Sometimes not immediately, because sometimes they will follow it up with an argument about how I don't know that there isn't a god -- which is tiresome because I am not looking to argue about it, and I've respected their beliefs, and I only stated my reasoning because they flat out asked me but they still reflexively take my response as an argument instead of a statement of my feelings. I did not and do not ask them why they're a theist, because it is none of my business and I know that I could not have answered that question when I was a theist and being asked would have only made me feel threatened. It's precisely the situation I was trying to avoid, and they are unaware that they're pulling it into that territory despite all my best efforts.

What's worse, I can't even blame them for that reflexive defensiveness because I did the same thing; it's simply difficult to hear a statement contrary to your personal beliefs and not take it as an argument. That's the case whether you're talking about religion or anything else, but it's unfortunately magnified in religious discussions because even for the casually religious, religious ideas form a much stronger foundation of their worldview than most people even realize. For example, I was very casually religious, never went to church or believed much in even Christ himself, much less the other details of the Bible, but merely the broad idea of an afterlife was a coping mechanism for a lot of things; it's very painful to challenge that idea because it means you will not exist forever; you won't see dead loved ones later and they're not "in a better place" when they die, they're simply gone forever; people can have a horrible life and then die and that's it for them, no reward later; no one is looking out for you and it's actually possible for everything to go completely wrong with no recourse.

I didn't realize what a huge reassurance the vague idea of an afterlife had been for me until I couldn't believe in god anymore. You have to reframe your entire approach to a lot of things. There are other comforting thoughts that atheists use instead, but like anything paradigm-shifting you have to alter the way you think, mourn the old habits as you try to make them work again but they simply won't, and learn new ones. Once I found those new habits of thought they were much sturdier than my old ones, and I was much, much happier than I had been in the past. But those are not obvious alternatives at the moment of questioning. At least for me, there simply did not seem to be alternatives to my theist coping mechanisms at first, and for a couple of months I was absolutely wrecked. (This is partly why I think Richard Dawkins is much more sympathetic to theists than people give him credit for: it was during that period I read The God Delusion and I felt he absolutely understood what I was going through, was kind, and didn't dismiss me as stupid -- which was completely contrary to the opinion I had of him before, which was that he was a big jerk; later I realized I had no real basis for that opinion except that he said he was an atheist and was adamant god didn't exist, and I had seen clips of him respond in kind when theists had been unkind to him first -- when I had watched those clips in the past, I was so on the theists' side that I had been blind to how Dawkins always started the conversation as cordially and respectfully as he could.) It was only later that I realized my defensiveness and ire toward atheists had stemmed from the instinctual awareness of exactly how much was being threatened, though I had no conscious awareness of it; consciously, there was only a frantic anger.

Speaking purely of the situation on a psychological level, separate from the idea of whatever is actually the ultimate truth: An atheist cannot hope to engage those issues unscathed in the span of a few words, nor paragraphs, nor days, nor weeks, nor probably months. But when a theist finds himself unsettled by the idea that someone is an atheist, and reflexively asks for an explanation, this is what he is unknowingly expecting the atheist to be able to do -- and if the theist is more than casually religious, the atheist has an even bigger burden in formulating his response. Socially speaking, it's like pushing a blindfolded person into a field of landmines and then getting angry when he sets one off. Similar conversations thereafter, many atheists feel a sense of doom and dread that no matter what they do, short of lying, there may be explosions they will be blamed for.

I should note here that what makes this all the worse is that, knowing how awful the transition from theism to atheism was for me, I am actually squeamish about pushing anyone toward or through what I went through, even though I obviously feel it's necessary and worth it. I don't like feeling responsible for anyone's pain, even -- and oddly, especially -- if I'm well-meaning. I'd like people to get there through some path that has nothing to do with me. I also know that given my own path to atheism, you can't force it by arguments; people either smack into it at some point or they don't. In short, I absolutely dread these conversations, dread them with an acute sense of being sick to my stomach because of the memories it brings back and the sense of potential culpability for setting off someone's existential alarm bells, and say as little as I can get away with.

But even if they don't immediately bite my head off, after my response to how I can't know there isn't a god, it always, always gets unpleasant. This is because, as best I can see, there are only two options available. One is that I can explain as tactfully as possible that I do not believe in things without evidence of them, which just digs at them as yet another argument and worse yet, one with more meat to it -- if it's difficult to hear a statement contrary to your personal beliefs without taking it as an argument, then it's even harder to hear a full-blown explanation contrary to your personal beliefs without taking it as an argument. It reinforces the idea that I must think they're stupid because it must mean that I think they believe things without evidence, and few people like to think of themselves that way. But there is literally no other way for me to phrase it. Add to this a growing sense of anxiety from the first mention of "atheist" and the results aren't pretty.

The other option is that I can say, as nicely as possible, that I do not want to talk about it -- which gets me a whole host of other negative responses: argumentative people will see this as a weakness and try to prod me further, and others who were already feeling defensive seem to feel uneasy with this response -- that perhaps I think they're stupid, or oversensitive, or otherwise incapable of handling such a conversation. Some people mistake my vaguely ill expression for some sort of trauma that requires their theist salve -- like I'm atheist because of some horrible experience but don't really want to be, I imagine -- especially if I get a bit misty eyed at the idea of them crying in bed for two months and feeling lost, like I did. That's just how I react to the thought of anyone in pain, necessary or otherwise, happy ending or otherwise, but they naturally have no way of knowing that and read their own assumptions into it. I can't blame them, because I, too, once thought people were atheists because some awful event made them lose their faith.

I cannot think of a more fraught and awkward experience that I've ever gone through, much less gone through so frequently, than this. It can, in a real way, give you a kind of PTSD that flares up whenever religious discussions happen: I start feeling nauseated, and in the past I would teeter on the edge of a panic attack. When I was emotionally weaker I had people harangue me to the point of tears, people I loved and respected who had never showed me any ill-will before, who suddenly looked at me as if I was a monster.

For what it's worth, if any theists are reading this and perhaps dismayed that they may have unwittingly dragged an atheist into a situation like this, the proper response to anyone telling you they're an atheist is to say, "Oh, okay," and move on. I understand that some atheists are really tactless assholes and you've had to deal with them before, and it's something akin to the reflexive dread atheists have to deal with from theists because those atheists are so disproportionately loud about it -- but if someone has not demanded to know why you believe the things you do, then do not ask them about their atheism. It's difficult to discuss even among close friends, so it's really rather rude to ask most people. Use your best judgment with the ones that seem receptive, but remember that a statement of their beliefs is not an argument against yours.

And all this, I think people need to understand, is part of what feeds into this problem we get when we have discussions about atheism. There's some chicken-and-the-egg going on, but basically there's an idea that atheists are assholes because some atheists act like assholes, and then theists respond in kind, and it spirals from there. Since it's chicken-and-the-egg we've got to just pick a place to start, so let's start here: Why are some atheists so tactless and insulting? None of this excuses the behavior, but understanding where the behavior comes from is a necessary starting point:

1. Atheists generally do not have non-atheist allies. The only people who speak up for atheists tend to be atheists. Freedom of speech-style allies are welcome, but these are not as comforting as the love-and-acceptance allies that other minority groups tend to have on their side. It's a more hands-off, principled acceptance -- the "I don't agree with it, but it shouldn't be persecuted" kind of acceptance. It makes a psychological difference to feel accepted versus merely tolerated.

2. This, and all that I've described above, makes it all too easy for even the most empathetic atheists to feel threatened, attacked, and marginalized.

3. It is not easy to speak tactfully from a minority position, without majority allies, when you feel threatened, attacked, and marginalized, especially not when you have a history of traumatizing reactions from having spoken out even slightly. If you're a woman, or a minority, or a homosexual, think of the icky feeling you get when you consider entering into a discussion of privilege and know there is a very real chance it will blow up in your face no matter what you do. It is like that for atheists, too, and they have fewer allies. Even on MeFi, where I at least feel free to say that I am an atheist, I don't really feel safe.

4. On top of all this, a lot of atheists have suffered psychologically and broken with theism because of some REALLY fucked up stuff. I can't even imagine what that is like. I understand completely that is galling for someone to extrapolate from those experiences that all religion is therefore bad. However, please do your best to remind yourself of the kind of weight they might be carrying and be kind.

Also, try to keep in mind that the general arguments against religion that come from those stories are usually more nuanced than they seem on-face, so you might think they're arguing something they're not; I'm not asking you to accept the arguments, either, I'm only pointing out that I didn't recognize that as a theist, and thus "you can't say all religion is bad because of ____" is a waste of breath for both sides because they're then talking at cross purposes. I'm not saying there aren't answers you could give, just that there's a communication gap at present. I can't tell you what response would be more to the point because I actually don't know, but maybe if we can at least cool the discussions down we'll one day get to a point where there's a better understanding of what is being argued on both sides and it will be clearer what responses speak more to each other, so we're not just needlessly being dicks back and forth.

5. Atheists feel silenced. There is then a dynamic at play that works like this: a ton of people stay silent, and a handful speak up. While some rational, tactful people speak up, courage alone doesn't require those qualities -- indeed, courage is often more helped along by anger and a disregard for what others think. Atheists have only recently started speak up, and for some time, the only ones with the courage will be, largely, assholes. If you want rational, tactful atheists to be more fairly represented, you can help it along if you be the better person in those discussions and show that speaking up doesn't mean inviting a battle; otherwise, mostly only battle-hungry people will have the energy for it.

This isn't at all fair -- why should anyone have to be nice to someone who's being an asshole? -- but it is reality. Remember that it's a lot easier to be the better person when you're in the majority position. Plus, it feels awesome when you can pull it off. I've found that when life gives you difficult people, it's a lot more rewarding to sharpen your zen against them than lose your shit, even though in the moment the former feels tense and the latter feels liberating and cathartic. You're going to have to respect yourself the next morning.

I also have a suspicion, though I can't prove it, that people who have always been atheists tend to find it less emotionally fraught to speak up, and those people are more likely to find the idea of theism baffling and ridiculous. Thus you end up with a lot of completely unempathetic people being really insulting and flame-baiting.

6. Atheists find it very frustrating that religion inevitably leads to real world policy implications that hurt people when, as they see it, god isn't even real. That frustration pervades real life and spills into discussions. I'm not asking you to accept that's a reasonable way to see things, I'm simply trying to get you to understand how difficult it is to surpress that feeling and to be a little gentler in response. Imagine if your country were ruled by a different religion than the one you hold, or make up a belief you feel is obviously imaginary and arbitrary and imagine living somewhere where that informed the laws. It would drive you nuts. If asked to justify why you thought it was absurd, instead of other people justifying why it wasn't absurd, some days you would just be so baffled and frustrated that all you could do is sputter about it. Then imagine that you generally support the idea that people should be allowed to hold whatever religious beliefs they want, but things like that come up and you feel you can't be silent. That's how atheists feel much of the time. Again, I'm not asking you to accept that's true or anything, just imagine how frustrating that would be, and how difficult it would be to communicate sometimes. It's something you would have to work on, of course, because that's still your responsibility, but it's not easy.

Some atheists (myself included) have to do a similar mental exercise where we tell ourselves, "Okay, if I sincerely believed that god exists, then yes I would believe this is the right thing to do or right way to behave" just to understand the mental state that someone else is coming from. I find this helpful and productive. If I could not do this without derisively thinking, "...but it's so stupid for them to feel that way so WHO CARES" I think I would be a much unhappier person.

7. Some people are naturally assholes and they also happen to be atheists. Same for theists, of course. We would all do well to try and remember these are not inherent qualities of any metaphysical stance. Yes, it is easy to say and hard to do.

So why are some atheists assholes? Now it should be clearer:

When someone feels they are not speaking from an accepted position, and that it is likely people are going to be jerks to them because people have always been jerks to them, and that they have been damaged by a group that has silenced them, they tend to have courage to bust out of the gate swinging before they have the courage to walk calmly out of the gate and hold their head high. This is simply the nature of people. It doesn't change the fact that it's more productive to calmly hold your head high, but I do encourage everyone to be gentler and more forgiving in light of this: what we're lacking in these conversations is good faith, and the sooner atheists get shown good faith, and more often, the less often they will feel the need to go for the throat and the more likely they will be to show good faith in turn.

Atheists must show theists good faith too, I just have less hope of that being likely given the position atheists are currently speaking from and the history of bad experiences speaking up that most inevitably have behind them. As another parallel to the feminism threads, I have felt that when men show some understanding and willingness to listen even when the women get frustrated it goes a long way and things start to cool down much faster than I would have predicted; the women have a lot of awful past experiences trying to talk about these things, and while the men have endured some insults at the hands of frustrated women, they are still in a more secure position that makes it a bit easier for them to let loaded language roll off them. The majority always gets attacked, sometimes fairly and sometimes unfairly, but they're always in a better position to fix a broken tone. Once a few people start fixing the tone, whether they be in the majority or minority, it snowballs; it's generally more difficult for people to continue to attack someone when they don't attack back.

This means biting your tongue when an atheist is being an insulting asshole, and instead being kinder to him than he is being to you. It is hard as fuck to do this, in any situation, with anybody, and I don't expect anyone to manage it even most of the time. I even inwardly growl at having to handle an atheist in that sort of state. I have a hell of a lot of respect for people who can do it, though, and I respect myself when I can do it.

Atheists, of course, need to be just as aware of all these issues and stop themselves from being assholes as often as possible; it really is a cycle at this point, and being assholes to theists isn't going to make them willing to be nice to atheists so atheists will keep feeling attacked, and so on. So quit phrasing things in insulting and derogatory terms. I don't care if you've been treated worse, it helps nothing and hurts greatly. You well know that the natural response is not often the rational response. Recognize that there is already an inherent communication difficulty due to the threatening nature of your ideas, and that people are naturally going to be emotionally invested in theism, and do not needlessly pile more difficulties on top of that.

Don't make theists out to be stupid; people who pride themselves on their rationality should be frankly embarrassed to make such simplistic arguments that ignore reality. Furthermore, if someone really prides himself on being a rational person, then he will realize the utter irrationality of attacking others because they wish people didn't have that viewpoint; if someone really prides himself on being grounded in reality, he is forced to see that insults only make people defensive, not receptive; if someone prides himself for being observant and introspective, then he will see that speaking out is only effective if it is done in a way to invite acceptance, and to do otherwise is merely to indulge your own upset feelings at the expense of everyone else.

Remember, right now your only allies are pretty much other atheists. If they see you unnecessarily alienating people in the name of atheism -- there is going to be quite enough unavoidable alienation as it is -- you're not going to have any allies. If you can't manage to stop yourself saying something nasty for your own sake, then please try to consider the frustration you're causing other atheists. Don't fool yourself into thinking it's a choice between being an asshole and being silent either, because that's a big clue that you're doing things counterproductively. If it's the case though, you might consider a period of silence while you work out what makes it so difficult to be tactful and address that.

I don't know if these discussions will ever be easy, but I know that there is huge room for improvement.
posted by Nattie at 4:37 AM on March 30, 2011 [27 favorites]


For the record, Nattie:

I'm a theist. And when I react to an atheist who's being an insulting asshole, I'm not doing so because hir atheism is "threatening."

I'm reacting because s/he is being an insulting asshole.

Just like I react when a theist is being an insulting asshole to atheists.
Or a Yankees fan is being an insulting asshole to Red Sox fans.
Or a sports fan is being an insulting asshole to the arts.
Or an artist is being an insulting asshole to sports.
Or a Republican is being an insulting asshole to Democrats.
Or a Democrat is being an insulting asshole to Republicans.
Or a vegetarian is being an insulting asshole to meat eaters.
Or a carnivore is being an insulting asshole to vegetarians.
Or....etc.

If you're being an asshole, it really doesn't actually matter what you're being an asshole about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:48 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


when I react to an atheist who's being an insulting asshole, I'm not doing so because hir atheism is "threatening."

I never said that was the sole reason for anyone's reaction. My apologies if it came across that way.
posted by Nattie at 4:58 AM on March 30, 2011


Or to put it another way, I assumed it was obvious that people will react negatively to insulting people, so it didn't occur to me to include that more than I already did. I meant only to point out ways in which the atheism discussions have some different components that further complicate things, among which is the idea that it can be threatening in huge ways that most discussions aren't -- and not that it always threatening either, not at all. For example, I've met theists who don't feel threatened in the least because they have solid personal reasons to think that god exists, and I've also met theists who don't get defensive when an atheist unavoidably implies that they believe things without a reason because they feel faith is a virtue.

There's tons of permutations of this stuff, I can only speak to what I've personally experienced. I don't ever mean to say that anything is universal, and I thought I was pretty careful to hedge everything so as to avoid confusion, but I apologize if I failed in that.
posted by Nattie at 5:04 AM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jesus, Nattie.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:07 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


> As for fighty LOLXian vs. atheism threads, I appreciate them although I don't participate in them as much as I used to. It's clear to me that they make many Christians and theists here uncomfortable, and that's a good thing.

They also make non-asshole atheists uncomfortable because we don't want to be associated with the assholes who shit up those threads. I suppose that's a good thing too. Hail Eris!
posted by languagehat at 5:28 AM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Take, for example, this phrasing, which is as value-free as I can make it without hiding the fact that I'm an atheist:

(When asked why I'm an atheist) "I just don't see a reason to believe why there would be a god."
How this reads to some people, no matter how friendly or detached I keep my tone: "You believe things with no proof, therefore you are stupid."


FWIW, I don't think what you're saying is a value-free phrase, no matter how it is said. It's implicitly marking you as smart and the theist as idiotic, thus the negative response.

I say "Just never felt the spirit," shrug and smile. That usually gets confused looks and yes, looks of pity, but that's not my problem, since I don't feel pitfitable. Usually it leads to some sort of short discussion "Well, have you been to church? What denomination? What church? etc etc" Usually once I tell non Catholics that I was raised Catholic, they just nod their head understandingly, ha.

But I'm working from the agonistic framework, with the thought that "Who knows, they could be right, I'll find out eventually." So I'll implicitly acknowledge their beliefs by mentioning 'the spirt' and whatever they feel about what I said is up to them. It may confuse, horrify or enrage them, but whatever.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:29 AM on March 30, 2011


This has been an illuminating discussion for me, and I thank y'all.

But Brandon, as an atheist living in Dixie, I have little experience with the "altar boy." Did I understand you to say that they get paid for attending weddings in their official capacity? Just curious.
posted by thebrokedown at 5:50 AM on March 30, 2011


Nattie - rejection of hell is not necessarily a step towards atheism.

In fact, the original links were an op-ed from a rabbi, about a devout minister (and from his bl
posted by jb at 5:50 AM on March 30, 2011


I usually say I have no sense of faith. But I'm also quite often in the closet as an atheist as I'm extremely wary of people reacting violently. Even if they don't I'm not usually in the mood for the fierceness of people's prejudices about atheism.

jb, I think that's why Nattie said: Just to be clear, I also know Christians that keep on being Christians who don't believe in hell
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:53 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


argh stupid iPod.

I was saying -- the original links were from a rabbi, about a minister and about a book by an evangelical pastor,

all of whom do not agree with current evangelical conceptions of hell.

The thread was about a debate between religious people over the meaning of the afterlife.

To turn it into a referendum on the existence of god was a complete derail. It was the equivalent of coming into a thread on college football to argue that football is inherently aggressive and violent and should be banned and anyone who likes playing football (American) is a violent person who supports beating people up.

Now, maybe there might be a place in a discussion of college football to question the place (and prominence) of sports in higher education. It is not the place to berate sports fans, personally attack them for being sports fans or to derail their discussion with your own agenda.

I would be estatic to have an intelligent discussion on the doctrine of hell in contemporary evangelical christianity and/or the afterlife more widely - with believers and non-believers and everyone in-between. I deeply valued Pater Altheias comments, and zarq's and everyone who taught me what I did not know about their respective traditions. I would have valued discussion from non-believers which discussed their own reactions to and thoughts about doctrines of the afterlife.

What I objected to was the take over of the thread to pronounce on the existence of a deity, announce that all believers in said deities should have their brains examined, and to denouce all religious people for the sins of other religious people with whom they might have serious disagreements.

This was a derail - and a driven one, not just a meandering one.
posted by jb at 6:04 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


But Brandon, as an atheist living in Dixie, I have little experience with the "altar boy." Did I understand you to say that they get paid for attending weddings in their official capacity? Just curious.

In the Catholic religion it was common, though not always guaranteed from what I remember. Basically it was up to wedding couple, who would usually slip you $10-15 bucks cash.

No such luck with funerals.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:05 AM on March 30, 2011


(When asked why I'm an atheist) "I just don't see a reason to believe why there would be a god." How this reads to some people, no matter how friendly or detached I keep my tone: "You believe things with no proof, therefore you are stupid."

Hmm. Personally -- if this helps -- I see absolutely no problem with "I don't see a reason to believe why there would be a God." If you said it to me, I'd just shrug and say "'kay, cool." (Granted, I probably wouldn't have asked "why are you an atheist" in the first place, because dude, that's your personal business. If you told me just to tell me, I'd be too flattered that you trusted me.)

Not denying that you've gotten negative reactions to that -- but I would wager that that reaction has more to do with the specific people you're talking to than any Unified Field Theory of Theists, however. Yes, some people are threatened by things they don't understand -- but I'd wager that's more so a trait of xenophobia than anything else. And xenophobes are subsets of every group.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:12 AM on March 30, 2011


Nattie -- atheists do have non-atheist allies; I am not an atheist, and I would defend any atheist who was disparaged or attacked for their non-belief. However, I am also an ally of moderate theists (I am not a theist), and when non-moderate atheists (of whom you are not) attack moderate theists for the fact of being theist, I am not going to ally myself with that, anymore than I will ally myself with homophobic or sexist beliefs of any oppressed ethnic/racial group.
posted by jb at 6:17 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


languagehat, how can you call yourself an atheist and deny Eris like that? Now look what you did - she's off in the corner, sulking and stuffing herself sick with hotdog buns.
posted by jb at 6:20 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


EC, there's some confirmation bias I think where the people most likely to kick up a fuss about atheism are those who proselytize and bug you until they find out your an atheist. If you are deep enough in the closet, it takes a certain kind of overly-evangelical disrespectful person to back you into a corner where you feel like you have to announce it to them or suffocate under the weight of your own disingeniousness. The other thing that happens is that you out yourself to a friend who's never knowingly encountered an atheist before, and they react badly (because they have no framework or preparation) as if you announced that one of their family members molested you as a child, or that you were a satanist or something.

It'd be cool if there was some kind of Atheist's koan that you could use to prep your friends and make them play devil's advocate, so that they give the matter some thought before you out yourself.

Mostly I'm honest early when I decide someone's a friend.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:20 AM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ah, of course. The tipping aspect never occurred to me.
posted by thebrokedown at 6:25 AM on March 30, 2011


EC, there's some confirmation bias I think where the people most likely to kick up a fuss about atheism are those who proselytize and bug you until they find out your an atheist. If you are deep enough in the closet, it takes a certain kind of overly-evangelical disrespectful person to back you into a corner where you feel like you have to announce it to them or suffocate under the weight of your own disingeniousness.

...I have to admit I'm having trouble following you. (Could be because I'm a bit pre-caffinated.)

I don't like the people who proseletyze and bug you to that level either, because they frequently target other theists who they think aren't believing "hard enough." (Also -- I was raised Catholic, and many of these hardcore evangelists are of the "Catholics aren't real Christians anyway" ilk, which chaps my ass, because "dude, I was there and know what I got taught.")

I just always attributed that kind of motive in people to a sort of overly-busybody nature and hardcore zealotry, and I've encountered it -- and gotten it directed at me -- from feminists, progressive activists, and Democrats as much as I've gotten it from Christian evangelicals, so I just always got more stubborn about the "you're trying to tell me what to do when you don't get a vote" aspect without assigning a motive to it. Because I have also met Christians, progressive activists, feminists, and Democrats who didn't do that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:33 AM on March 30, 2011


Oh, just realized something else too -- interestingly, I once went into a conversation knowing I was going to get proseletyzed to, and was pretty open about how I wasn't going to change my mind, but we still spoke calmly and well; and in fact, both of us got a tremenous kick out of our conversation. It was a couple days after 9/11, and I'd just dropped by a local mosque to leave them a note of support ("for the record, some of your neighbors get that this wasn't indicative of Islam and we support you"). They found me there while I was writing my note, and the guy who was their community outreach organizer came to talk to me. He made no bones about the fact that he was hoping I'd convert (at least someday), and I made no bones about the fact that I was happy as I was -- but I still wanted to learn because, hey, even if I was sure I wasn't going to agree, at least I'd know what made him tick, and that was always good. And he respected that.

We ended up having this fantastic, rollickingly fun hour-long conversation on the steps of his mosque, and it made both our days. Sometimes interfaith relations just work.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:39 AM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Those kinds of comments don't help anything, yet I see them in almost every one of this sort of thread.

For what it's worth, the sort of "gets popcorn" bullshit we'll delete when we see it on MetaFilter, so please feel free to flag the hell out of it.

I don't believe in hell, though I do believe in MetaTalk.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:39 AM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Six/half dozen.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:41 AM on March 30, 2011


I'll try and break it down. I try and stay in the closet as an Atheist (more so since I got married). The only people I ever tell are people I really want to tell because I feel a certain intimacy and friendship with them and I don't want to keep my atheism from them, or the people who have been such busybody evangelists that it's the only honest way I can make them go away. The latter group almost universally take it badly, and say appalling things. It can lead one to feel like that's going to be the reaction every time it comes up.

If you are out of the closet more as an atheist, you'll have more bad experiences of discussions with religious people, but the ration of good to bad experiences will go up because you are outing yourself to more of the non-evangelizing types. However, I think some people had some scarring experiences that prevent them from ever opening up to the non-assholes. Just like religious people often only experience the most militant and angry atheists.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:42 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm relatively fortunate in that the worst I experience early on was people telling me I'm nothing, or that I'm going to hell. I managed to get a wider set of more positive reactions from Christians before I realized how insanely zealous and xenophobic some people are.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:54 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I don't think what you're saying is a value-free phrase, no matter how it is said. It's implicitly marking you as smart and the theist as idiotic, thus the negative response.

Is it really? Er, that's a sincere question, not argumentative... It's curious to me, I suppose, because I definitely don't feel like it's an intelligence issue, but I am open to phrasing it differently if it would help. I've tried "I just don't believe in god," but it always leads to people either following up with "Why not?" to which the answer is, literally, I lack a reason to think he exists, which is square one and I've somehow implied that they're stupid -- or else people try to give me reasons. Then the conversation gets worse (and frankly condescending, though they mean well) because I have to sidesteps these reasons and explain that no, I'm not actually looking for reasons and yes, I've actually given those very careful thought and even believed in god before and I don't believe/accept those things and yes I'm sure of it -- all of which just as inevitably implies that I think they're stupid because I simply do not believe something that they believe, and worse yet, because I used to believe those things, people all too easily take this to mean I think it's part of some earlier stage of intellectual evolution or something, like when younger people bristle at older people saying, "I thought that too, when I was your age."

All this, when I don't believe any of those things about them. My supposed judgment of them is all in their head. I don't know how to get around that without being dishonest about my beliefs -- which is why I'm dishonest about my beliefs.

I wish I could say something like "just never felt the spirit" but for me, it would be a lie. I could say it anyway, to make things socially easier, but if I can't find a way to phrase things neutrally without lying then it seems telling that atheists basically have to lie or get inevitably seen as assholes. I'm holding out hope for a better phrasing, but right now it's hard to see a way around the idea that I don't believe something, and if prodded, it's because I lack a reason to believe it. Part of my reason for posting is to encourage theists to consider that what sounds like an insult may literally be the lack of any better way to phrase things, and to keep in mind what position they are putting an atheist in if they ask them to justify their atheism. It's considered very rude to ask a theist to justify their beliefs, but people really do demand this of atheists without considering that they would think it was rude for an atheist to do the same of them, I've found.



jb, I know it's a long comment and I apologize for that, but I took great care to make clear that I was not saying that, in unequivocal terms, multiple times:

"rejecting a big idea like hell is often a first step for a Christian on the path to atheism OR an alternate belief system"

"Just to be clear, I also know Christians that keep on being Christians who don't believe in hell, and Christians that go on to more New Age-y or form their own custom spiritual beliefs, so I'm not saying that it's automatic atheism or anything."

"obviously some Christians remain Christians despite not believing in hell"


I don't think anyone wants to waste their time discussing things no one is arguing. I feel I must have communicated very poorly so far, so just to be clear: if anyone thinks anything I said in my above comment is intended to be a universal statement of the thoughts of reactions of all atheists or all theists, it absolutely is not. My intent was to discuss experiences that, precisely because they are not universal, merit mentioning because they would not otherwise occur to many people. I am not trying to back down from anything I said, to be clear, but I don't want to waste a lot of space refuting what are either misunderstandings or straw men, so I'm going to clarify this the one time and then let it stand.

"To turn it into a referendum on the existence of god was a complete derail."

I stand by my statement that it is not a derail because there are atheists who became atheists after grappling with the idea of hell. This ties in to the discussion of privilege in my comment: to a theist or agnostic, who has not had the experience of grappling with the idea of hell and becoming atheist, there is no obvious connection to the atheism discussion -- but to an atheist who has had that experience, it is relevant.

That being said, I'm sympathetic to the idea that you want to discuss other stuff, and I myself find the theological arguments and history interesting despite no longer having any stake in them -- I love Bart Ehrman's books -- but there's nothing stopping you from still having that discussion. If you have something to contribute about that, then contribute it. It isn't necessary to squash atheists to do so. We routinely carry on multiple threads of stories and arguments in other threads, but when atheist ideas creep into religious threads, atheists are accused of derailing because what is relevant to them is not relevant to the majority even if they are on topic. I'm not opposed to the idea of atheists staying out of religious threads now and then, really, because I'm sure it must get tiring for theists, but with this particular thread it was even more relevant than usual.

My honest opinion of why there is not more theological discussion on MeFi is that, aside from a few exceptions, most people are just not well-versed in it. Those that seem to be knowledgeable about it post about it. When I was a theist, I don't know what I would have contributed to such a thread.



BrotherCaine, when you say you have no sense of faith, do people start trying to give you reasons to have faith? That's been my experience so I abandoned it in favor of lying sometimes, but maybe I just had really bad luck...



EC, I am forever grateful there are people like you who do not react negatively, and I know a lot of people are like you. It's basically like BrotherCaine said in response, though, that people like you are generally not the kind of person to back an atheist into a corner and flat-out ask them about their beliefs and demand they justify them -- or at least you don't seem like the kind of person to do that. That's what I was getting at with the parallel to the feminism thread, that people like that make themselves known to atheists in ways that are more dramatic and disproportionate to their numbers than reasonable people do. I honestly feel more uncomfortable around people who start talking about religion than I do around men who accidentally trigger my alarm bells -- and just like with most men, there's usually no confrontation or anything to be worried about in the end, sometimes it even works out nicely, but it's happened so extraordinarily poorly, and so many times now, that it's really tense for me. There's a real fear of being made a scene of in public, being made to cry, and even physical violence. I know most people aren't like that, but that doesn't change my gut fear all that much. When those sorts of things happen, they stick with you, especially when they've come from people who aren't even strangers.
posted by Nattie at 6:57 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


While I'm thinking about it: "What I objected to was the take over of the thread to pronounce on the existence of a deity, announce that all believers in said deities should have their brains examined, and to denouce all religious people for the sins of other religious people with whom they might have serious disagreements." [emphasis mine]

Would you have been upset about it if none of the atheists were jerks about it? Would you still consider it a derail? Are those two things linked in your mind -- i.e. it was a derail because people being jerks doesn't seem meaningful?

I'm just curious, really. Either way, I don't think they should have been jerks. I tend to separate the two ideas in my head, but I have more sympathy for the idea that it's a derail in the sense of derails not accomplishing much, and being jerkish is a waste of everyone's time.
posted by Nattie at 7:06 AM on March 30, 2011


Nattie, you weren't asking me, but I hope it's okay if I weigh in anyway --

Would you have been upset about it if none of the atheists were jerks about it? Would you still consider it a derail?

Nope.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:10 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wish I could say something like "just never felt the spirit" but for me, it would be a lie.

Well, then you're sort of making your beliefs/thoughts/feelings on the issue more important than anything else, including their beliefs. Which is fine, go for it, just realize you can' t do that without getting some negative consequences.

I agree it's totally not fair and kinda weird that some theists get offended, but humans aren't rational or fair all the time. As a minority, you gotta roll with the majority to some degree, IMO.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:20 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just always attributed that kind of motive in people to a sort of overly-busybody nature and hardcore zealotry, and I've encountered it -- and gotten it directed at me -- from feminists, progressive activists, and Democrats as much as I've gotten it from Christian evangelicals, so I just always got more stubborn about the "you're trying to tell me what to do when you don't get a vote" aspect without assigning a motive to it.

I don't deny that some liberals can be... strident, but I think there's a vast difference between "you're wrong and you should think this way instead" and "you're going to burn in hell for all eternity, you sinner."
posted by desjardins at 7:33 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


P..S If you want to really confound a hardcore evangelical Christian, tell them you're a Buddhist. They can at least understand what atheism is, but Buddhism just baffles 'em.
posted by desjardins at 7:35 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


No, tell them you're a right-wing Buddhist.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:38 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't deny that some liberals can be... strident, but I think there's a vast difference between "you're wrong and you should think this way instead" and "you're going to burn in hell for all eternity, you sinner."

I disagree. I mean, if you don't believe in hell, how can "you're going to burn in hell" feel like a genuine threat?

Also, I've heard worse than "you're wrong and you should think this way instead".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:43 AM on March 30, 2011


Reflections: One reason I have so much trouble with the anger on either side is that I have familiarity with both (or maybe it's several) sides. I grew up in a freethinking family, with one agnostic and one athiest parent, but with one set of Catholic and one set of Fundamentalist Christian grandparents. I am actually a former athiest myself, and when pressed to check a box, I will self-identify as an agnostic Quaker practicing in the Christian tradition - all of which is entirely possible to be at once. I grew up in an atmosphere in which religious discussion and inquiry was as welcome as not, in which this debate, over the dinner table, was a comfortable and familiar one, and not charged with anger. Whatever anger my grandparents' generation had over my parent's transition to freethinking did not flow over obviously in any way into my life. But I did attend a lot of services and had a lot of religious education, for someone with no denomination of her own, and I found it all interesting. I also grew up in a very religiously diverse area in the Northeast and, from elementary school on, knew kids and families of a whole variety of faiths, from Hindu to Methodist to Orthodox Judaism. It seemed unremarkable.

The past couple of winters I've helped produce a spoken-word storytelling series. Despite there being a variety of themes, about a third of the stories touch in some way or another on the person's religious upbringing. It's amazing. Ideas about faith, having and losing same, negotiating differences of opinion, are bound up with emotions about society and family. Some people have had truly miserable experiences as a result of religious oppression and the power dynamics around religion in school, family, and church. I feel lucky I never had such strains in my life. I don't associate religion with terrible things which have happened to me personally, and have never needed to rebel against it, or undergo a painful process of separating myself from my family or my institutions because of it. It is not charged in that way for me at all. It's clear that terrible things have been done in the name of religion, but also that terrible things are done in the name of all kinds of entities, and all of that really has only one name: abuse of power. I don't mix abuse of power and religion qua religion. They can combine but abuse of power is not only the province of religion.

I don't have time here to go on and on about my thinking on religion and how it has very gradually evolved over my lifetime. Having grown up around a lot of athiests (hey, my dad is an engineer) it never seemed to me an unusual choice or something radical in any way. However, I didn't grow up in a region where religion was dominant and palpable in everything and there were only a few religions from the entire spectrum in evidence. Atheism, to me, seems a completely normal choice, as does agnosticism. So I get puzzled when I come in for a generalized attack simply because I don't identify as an atheist. As far as I'm concerned, there are a lot of perfectly fine ways of construing the universe, and there is a lot of socially positive work that all of us can do together without needing to probe one another's beliefs until they're pinned down exactly, fixed and immovable, like a chloroformed bug specimen.

In my adult life I've seen uses of religion, good and bad, and people scarred by religious experience as well as people calmed and uplifted by it. I've seen people who deplore the use of religion as a "crutch," and people whose life challenges make them welcome the help of a crutch, because it helps them to walk - people who are less concerned with objective Truth and more concerned with "whether it's true or not, it helps me stay sober" or "it helps me control my anxiety" or "it helps me maintain a practice in which I remember to be kind and think about others." While atheists do have a position to take about material and testable evidence and the probability of the existence of anything other than empirical reality in the universe, their foundational assumption that what is objectively true is the singular, most important thing to think about in about the world is not shared by all. Many religious people will happily admit that they don't know or maybe even think that what they believe is objectively true, and admit it's unprovable and perhaps even unlikely, but regardless of whether religion is "true" or not, whatever that means, it has utility.

Atheism has utility too, in that it may help people develop a questing project of finding and seeking meaning and value in ways independent of religion. But that can be done within religion too. Someone mentioned above that atheists might not have a lot to say to each other because atheism isn't "a community," but I would point out that theism isn't "a community" either. There is tremendous diversity. Even here on MeFi, I know that we have Hindus, Buddhists, evangelical Christians, Catholics, Jews of various degrees of observance, Muslims, Ba'hais, mainline Protestants, pagans, Native Americans who might observe aspects of traditional religions (I'm not sure), and generically "spiritual but not religious" folk, as well as agnostics and atheists aplenty. Some of those folks may be at the more "I follow dogma as received" end of the spectrum whereas many others, like most people according to Pew anyway, view a particular faith identification as a jumping-off place for a very personal practice of inquiry and observation. I think it's all pretty interesting. I'd like to be able to talk about it without general attack in any direction.

I appreciate there being lots of agnostics and atheists here - it's comfortable and familiar for me, it makes sense, it reminds me about important strategies of reasoning and logic, and it allows a really wide array of discussion of meaning and values to take place, and for religiously based prejudice or hate or attempts at establishing a superior belief system to be more frequently challenged. But others of us who are not in the self-identified athiest camp challenge those things too. Most people here, even believers, are the kinds of people who deplore religiously seated hatred and condemnation and violence, who favor secular government, who have and use skepticism in their thinking, and who allow for the rightful existence of a whole range of belief systems across humanity and are willing to acknowledge that their own is just their own, not something they'd expect or require of others. I think when theists on MeFi get their dander up, it's mostly because they feel it would be fair to recognize these things. And in general, I think that most theists on MeFi have respect for atheists, understand where they're coming from, and aren't seeking to convert, belittle, or silence them.

This should, of all places, be a place where meaning can be discussed, with the understanding that whether or not it's entirely materially rational, human beings will be coming from a variety of places with regard to how they choose to imbue their lives with meaning. And even that those points of view can change over a lifetime. I'm always inspired by the radio show Being (tellingly, the title was changed from the apparently more polarizing Speaking of Faith), which exemplifies an open-minded inquiry into the varieties of human belief, ethical reasoning, meaning, religion, philosophy, social justice, etc., without privileging any one point of view other another, and exploring each worldview for the powerful thoughts it might have to offer. It would be very nice if we didn't have to insist on the rightness or wrongness of others' broadest categories of belief, but could talk as individuals, understanding that each person has a unique and personal perspective on why the believe or think as they do, and shouldn't be lumped in with others who share just that giant label with them. I think we can be capable of this. And as I said above, I think the responsibility rests on all sides. You don't have to respond to every attack, and even though that one attacker may give you a hard time for not responding, there are probably ten other people reading along who are relieved that you just carried on with your discussion, and will pick up on that. I'll try to do better and perhaps we can all be more understanding.
posted by Miko at 7:43 AM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


jtron: "Just popping in to call out zarq for being reasonable and mellow.

Thanks, but in retrospect I feel like my quasi-ranty comment at the beginning of the thread didn't help the overall tone, either.

For that, I'm sorry too folks.
posted by zarq at 7:49 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I disagree. I mean, if you don't believe in hell, how can "you're going to burn in hell" feel like a genuine threat?


It is threatening because you believe it be true. You believe that I will be going to hell.
posted by futz at 8:00 AM on March 30, 2011


It is threatening because you believe it be true. You believe that I will be going to hell.

That just makes me a jerk, that doesn't mean I'm correct about whether you're going to hell. I mean, my saying that I believe you totally deserve to be kidnapped by leprechauns doesn't mean you actually will.

This could be a your-mileage-may-vary kind of thing. I personally just don't feel any difference between "you're stupid for thinking [foo]" and "you're going to hell because you believe [baz]". Someone telling me what they believe about me is a reflection of them being mean.

Where I draw the line is between someone just telling me "you're going to burn" because they believe I'm going to hell and someone committing some act directly on me because they believe I'm going to hell. Neither is fair, and I"ll push back against both, but speech vs. action is where I set my scale, not "this degree of speech vs. that one".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:07 AM on March 30, 2011


I stand by my statement that it is not a derail because there are atheists who became atheists after grappling with the idea of hell.

And I think that comments to that effect would have been a valuable addition to the thread. What I was requesting when I started this thread is that people refrain from the derailing (and disruptive) comments specifically on the existence/non-existence of God, evidence for/against said God, brain-status of people who believe in a God, etc., which did not pertain to the topic of the thread (conceptions of the afterlife). I have no problem with there being God/no God threads; I personally would stay out of them, because I think they would be stutifyingly boring (Yes, there is! No, there isn't!). I was just asking for other religious threads to be able to be about other aspects of religion - which is possible to do, as in the Talmud thread.

Also, I apologise for misunderstanding your point - your comment was very long, and I was reacting to the first part.
posted by jb at 8:14 AM on March 30, 2011


That just makes me a jerk, that doesn't mean I'm correct about whether you're going to hell. I mean, my saying that I believe you totally deserve to be kidnapped by leprechauns doesn't mean you actually will.

And I'm not sure if it makes a difference, but the place where most You're-Going-To-Hell Evangelicals is coming from is more 'You're going to be kidnapped by leprechauns! I was also about to be kidnapped by leprechauns, but I found out that if I turn three circles and say "Alakazam," I am set free from the leprechauns! You should totally do that, to save yourself!'
posted by shakespeherian at 8:20 AM on March 30, 2011


What I was requesting when I started this thread is that people refrain from the derailing (and disruptive) comments specifically on the existence/non-existence of God, evidence for/against said God, brain-status of people who believe in a God, etc., which did not pertain to the topic of the thread (conceptions of the afterlife).

Wasn't the very existence of Hell questioned by the rabbi?
posted by callmejay at 8:24 AM on March 30, 2011


I wrote this on the blue, but perhaps it belongs here:

I honestly think there's a lot of theistic privilege that goes unnoticed by the privileged. In many places, a simple vocal disagreement with theistic beliefs is met with outrage and moral indignation, as if theistic beliefs should be uniquely free from criticism. Even on places with mefi, where there are many atheists and even the theists seem to share more theological beliefs with atheists than with 67% of American Christians, this persists in the idea that atheists are "arrogant" for simply stating their beliefs. The one or two atheists who descend into mocking and derision are held up as examples of what atheists are like, and then even the "good" atheists start chiming in to brag about how good they are and how they never criticize religion. They'll imply that criticizing religion is something juvenile, that people's religious beliefs are their own business.

The internet is one of the first places in history where religion has to compete on an even ground. In real life, many religious people (again, not the Spong-like MeFites) protect themselves and especially their children from even encountering atheists. In religious schools and institutions across the country, vocally expressing atheism or even very difficult questions is grounds for dismissal and/or punitive action. In this very post, we have an example of a pastor who was dismissed for an honest change of belief.

On the internet, in an unmoderated forum, the religious don't have that power, and so they try to silence people by attacking them for not being respectful enough, or for being offtopic, or any other excuse they can find. But, like right-wing political views, I think you'll find that if you want to have a religious discussion that can thrive online, you'll have to engage in censorship and banning. You can't just expect the rest of us to stay silent while you so intellectually discuss the myths that have been used to beat us and others over the head for centuries as if they are perfectly reasonable beliefs for intelligent people living in the 21st century to hold.
posted by callmejay at 8:25 AM on March 30, 2011 [17 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "
I disagree. I mean, if you don't believe in hell, how can "you're going to burn in hell" feel like a genuine threat?


It separates out people as "Other." Which history has shown us can be dangerous because it can lead to real world consequences. It's not been unheard of for some groups to travel the short path from "Other" to "Dangerous" to more extreme examples, like "shouldn't be allowed to own property" or even "shouldn't be allowed to live."

Also, I've heard worse than "you're wrong and you should think this way instead"."

So have I. What happens when it doesn't stop there? As a kid, I was beaten up by other kids who told me I was going to burn in hell for being Jewish because my people were the scum who had murdered Jesus. Of course, we know that children who are taught to hate often grow up into adult bigots.

So where does it all end?
posted by zarq at 8:26 AM on March 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


...a simple vocal disagreement with theistic beliefs is met with outrage and moral indignation, as if theistic beliefs should be uniquely free from criticism.

Actually, I think it's that theistic beliefs are very personal, so questioning them is interpreted as questioning (and judging) the individual or group. It can be fairly hard to have a rational discussion about these things with an unknown believer because you don't know each other, so talking about personal subjects can be touchy for one or more parties.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:29 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


shakesperean and zarq again, I've stated that where I personally draw the line is between whether people do something to me based on their beliefs about me, or whether people just say something to me based on their beilefs about me.

Of course getting beat up by someone because they believe something about you is horrible. My point is, to me, the reason that's worse is because they're physically taking an action upon you, not because they believe something about you. If they believe something about you, but don't take a physical action upon you, it's still bad, but not as bad as whether they take an action upon you.

And if all they do is talk but not act, then to me, there isn't any "greater than/less than" scale in terms of what they say.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:30 AM on March 30, 2011


As a kid, I was beaten up by other kids who told me I was going to burn in hell for being Jewish because my people were the scum who had murdered Jesus.

Curious question, is there a "Jewish" line of thought or typical, sanely state response on how to respond to this crazy belief?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:36 AM on March 30, 2011


sanely state response

that should be "...sanely statED response...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:41 AM on March 30, 2011


poor zarq, the token Jew.
posted by desjardins at 8:42 AM on March 30, 2011


Whatever mod just fixed my HTMfail, I love you. That is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:42 AM on March 30, 2011


poor zarq, the token Jew.

I think a lot of us have been the token Jew in places where there weren't a lot of Jewish people. I've heard variations on this story from a lot of Jewish friends who didn't grow up in places with decent-sized Jewish communities. There are all sorts of ways to combat ignorance and I'm sure there are measured responses to this sort of discussion if there's a discussion happening. But if it's just blind hatred based on an ignorant misunderstanding, it's really not the time to start having a conversation about it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:43 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


The rabbi's article was specifically about the damage that occurs when you condemn people to hell. Even if they're not beating you up right then.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:47 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


And, from an insult to injury perspective, one of the stereotypes of Jewish people is being [over-]educated, snobby and standoffish (variations on the chosen people idea which has good and bad connotations depending who is talking about it) so a lot of the typical responses you'd have to something like this (indicating the person doesn't really know their religious history, blowing it off and going elsewhere) wind up reinforcing the negative stereotype. It's really pernicious.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:48 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


So people should just ignore it when something they believe in strongly is wholly mischaracterized and someone accuses them of being foolish just for thinking that something?

....'kay.


You know, a lot of straigh, white, males (not that everything is all about us) feel like they are mischaracterised and are accused of far worse things than foolishness whenever privelage is discussed.

They are more than likely wrong but if we have a blanket policy of responding every time one feels slighted every time it happens than not a lot of things are going to get discussed at all on this site and it will just be one long fight.

Maybe there is something to be said for letting something slide, especially when one is on the privelaged side of a particular discussion.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:49 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


While there is certainly no proscription against religious topics here (mostly) they do tend to go poorly because they tend to be populated by people with very strong feelings.

I don't think that's true, jessamyn. Cilantro, declawing, and I/P threads don't go well because they tend to be populated by people with very strong feelings about topics upon which intelligent people can and do validly disagree. Threads on Christianity, sports, and contemporary art tend not to go well because one or several posters decides to let it be known that there is no invisisible sky entity and believers in such are malevolent infants, that football is violent and stupid, that conceptual art is a pointless sham perpetrated by cynical hucksters.

The commonality here is that said posters know nothing or next-to-nothing about the thing they are slagging, and they tend to frame themselve as champions of rationality and empirical knowledge, tireless defenders of embattled real-world practicality. Threads about Christianity usually include atheists who clearly know zero about theology, or for that matter anything aside from a cartoon version of contemporary Christianity, informing the thoughtful, tolerant Christians of metafilter that their beliefs are not what they think they are, that they are in fact supporters of a hateful, violent ideology dead-set on casting sinners into the fiery pit. There is one vocal mefite who might-might!-think homosexuals are hell-bound, and she can't even talk about it. The problem isn't passion. It's arrogance and self-righteousness and wilful ignorance, and it doesn't just fuck up threads on religion.
posted by generalist at 8:51 AM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd like to apologize for being a dick.

You have absolutely nothing to apologize for, IRFH.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:52 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


The rabbi's article was specifically about the damage that occurs when you condemn people to hell. Even if they're not beating you up right then.

A fair point, but I never said that verbal insults weren't damaging. If that's what it sounded like, then my apologies.

I was more addressing the notion that "you're blinded by the patriarchy because you still shave your legs" is less insulting than "you're going to hell." I don't consider either to be more or less insulting than the other.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:52 AM on March 30, 2011


However, by the same token, I also allow that my own "neither is worse than the other" is probably a "your mileage may vary" point anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:53 AM on March 30, 2011


My last comment was meant to be a sort of light-hearted ribbing of both zarq and Brandon Blatcher that at second glance is not appropriate to the tone of this thread.
posted by desjardins at 8:54 AM on March 30, 2011


On the internet, in an unmoderated forum, the religious don't have that power, and so they try to silence people by attacking them for not being respectful enough, or for being offtopic, or any other excuse they can find.

I think it's unfortunate that people have gotten this impression, and for my part in contributing to that, I apologize.

However I think that that thread should have been able to be a discussion about the history of the doctrine of hell, the insularity of the Evangelical subculture, the ways in which schisms occur, the ways in which religious people emphasize and deemphasize bits of their respective scriptures selectively and based mostly on what they've been told to believe rather than what's actually in their respective scriptures -- all of which are topics anyone, regardless of theistic beliefs, can find interesting and engage in -- without turning into yet another tired discussion of why theistic beliefs are foolish, a topic which by now folks probably already realize will start a shitstorm. I think that, for example, Metafilter ought to be able to have a discussion on how Reagan's statements have been corrupted and mythologized and reimagined to the point that the actual guy Reagan would be at odds with the values of the Tea Party without people having to continually pop into the thread to say 'Birthers are racist.' I think Metafilter is usually, and should continue to be, a place where smart people can speak intelligently about things even if they don't belong to the groups under discussion.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:55 AM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Maybe there is something to be said for letting something slide, especially when one is on the privelaged side of a particular discussion.

I'm willing to accept that by identifying as a religious person I might be on the privileged side, tentatively, to see where that goes. But I meant it when I said that being a believer of one kind or another doesn't necessarily privilege you in all contexts. Being a left-wing Christian in the world of Christians definitely others a person. Being a Protestant at a Catholic service when you accidentally keep running on and tacking the three additional lines at the end of the Lord's Prayer outs you for some uncomfortable attention. Being Muslim or Hindu or Jewish puts you on the wrong side of privilege plenty of the time. To a member of some religions, the only privileged people are those within the same religion, and everyone else, believer or not, is in the out-group. There are certain contexts, such as politics, where belief might be a privilege, but it might just as easily be a total disqualifier based on which religion you're involved in. Because the varieties of religious belief are so complex, because it's not a binary system where you're clearly on one side of the divide or the other, I'm not sure it works to say that "religious believers are always privileged in Western culture over non-believers." It really depends which believers and who is doing the judging.
posted by Miko at 8:58 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The commonality here is that said posters know nothing or next-to-nothing about the thing they are slagging, and they tend to frame themselve as champions of rationality and empirical knowledge, tireless defenders of embattled real-world practicality. Threads about Christianity usually include atheists who clearly know zero about theology, or for that matter anything aside from a cartoon version of contemporary Christianity, informing the thoughtful, tolerant Christians of metafilter that their beliefs are not what they think they are, that they are in fact supporters of a hateful, violent ideology dead-set on casting sinners into the fiery pit.

This is exactly what I'm talking about. generalist is going ad hominem on the vocal atheists in the thread. You say we know nothing or next-to-nothing about the topic, and yet I spent twenty years as an Orthodox Jew and seemed to know more about at least the Jewish conceptions of the afterlife than anyone else in the thread. You say we base our arguments on a cartoon version of contemporary Christianity, and yet I was the one who brought in a Gallup poll to demonstrate my claims about Christians in America, while the most active Christian poster in the thread was using her own personal community to extrapolate to American Christianity on the whole.

But no, I'm just an ignoramus attacking a cartoon, just as feminists are just lesbians who hate men and wildly inflate rape statistics. This is how privilege works, folks.
posted by callmejay at 9:02 AM on March 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


However I think that that thread should have been able to be a discussion about the history of the doctrine of hell, the insularity of the Evangelical subculture, the ways in which schisms occur, the ways in which religious people emphasize and deemphasize bits of their respective scriptures selectively and based mostly on what they've been told to believe rather than what's actually in their respective scriptures -- all of which are topics anyone, regardless of theistic beliefs, can find interesting and engage in -- without turning into yet another tired discussion of why theistic beliefs are foolish, a topic which by now folks probably already realize will start a shitstorm.

It wasn't really set up for that. It was a link to a rabbi saying "Here's why believing in Hell is harmful" in response to a pastor's being fired for not believing in hell.
posted by callmejay at 9:05 AM on March 30, 2011


>: "But I meant it when I said that being a believer of one kind or another doesn't necessarily privilege you in all contexts."

Inevitably in any discussion of privilege in feminism or race topics, people will make the point that being a white male does not necessarily privilege one in all contexts, and can easily come up with contexts in which that contextual non-privilege holds true. They're not just trolling the feminists or whoever (well, some of them might be), they really do honestly, good-faith mean it when they say it, and are a bit baffled by how that slam-dunk rhetorical point just doesn't seem to get recognized.

I suggest there are parallels here.
posted by Drastic at 9:07 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


It wasn't really set up for that.

Sure, but this is the same place where people write long personal essays about epistemology and temporality in threads about 80s cartoons.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:08 AM on March 30, 2011


To clarify: that's only a slam-dunk rhetorical point to them. I think the privilege angle is spot on at digging into the deeper dynamics in internet religion fights.
posted by Drastic at 9:09 AM on March 30, 2011


Sure, but this is the same place where people write long personal essays about epistemology and temporality in threads about 80s cartoons.

Yeah, I love when that happens.
posted by callmejay at 9:10 AM on March 30, 2011


I suggest there are parallels here.

I'm open to hearing that, but I would like more discussion of how being religious is a privileged position. The difference I see is that "being religious" contains a much higher number of variables than "being male," so it casts such a broad net that it inevitably includes sets of people who are very rarely privileged in Western culture.
posted by Miko at 9:11 AM on March 30, 2011


So as not to clutter up the blue, I've moved a tangent back in here.

callmejay said this:

Then you said "Just because someone believes in an afterlife (raises hand) that doesn't mean that they also ipso facto believe homosexuality is a sin." And that's when I went into the gay marriage stats.

I'm not certain how your quoting stats changes my own point, though. My point being: not every theist who believes in an afterlife ALSO believes homosexuality is a sin."


Can you find people who do hold both those beliefs? Yes. Can you find a good deal of people who do? Yes. But -- can you also find people who hold one of those beliefs but not the other? Yes.

So that being said -- does it make sense to assume that EVERYONE who holds one of those beliefs ALSO holds the other? I personally don't think so.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:13 AM on March 30, 2011


Again, parallels. People will point out that "white male" contains a much higher number of variables than people give credit for. The homeless. Blue collar workers versus executives. This context. That context. Etc. It casts such a broad net that it includes sets of white males who aren't privileged at all. Those variables exist, and that those variables exist and are so convincing is part of why the refractory indices on certain knapsacks are so very low.
posted by Drastic at 9:15 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obviously, not EVERYONE who holds one holds the other. That's an absurd standard. I provided data to show that a MAJORITY of those who hold one holds the other, though AND that a MAJORITY of those who do NOT hold one do not hold the other. It's an immense correlation (70%+ one way, 81% the other) that would be considered extremely strong in any study.
posted by callmejay at 9:17 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


In other words...most privilege arguments are essentially binary. One class is privileged above another class that lacks the characteristics of the first class. So "white/nonwhite." "rich/poor." "male/female." "Religious/nonreligious" assumes that the class of religious people benefits across the board from social goods denied to the nonreligious. But plenty of religious people do not benefit at all from them. Usually, the male/female privilege argument and similar arguments assert that all men (or whichever) benefit from privilege whether they actively want to or not. I'm not sure I could say that all religious people benefit from privelege, or what exactly those privileges look like. For instance, male privilege might include a reasonable security that walking alone in a park at night does not put you at risk for rape. What does religious privilege look like?
posted by Miko at 9:17 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's an immense correlation

What happened to the 60% who are both religious and favor gay marriage?
posted by Miko at 9:18 AM on March 30, 2011


"Theist" is a default, like heterosexuality is a default. If you are atheist, if you are gay, you are "other." To be a default is to be privileged.
posted by desjardins at 9:19 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Theist" is a default,

Where?
posted by Miko at 9:20 AM on March 30, 2011


What does religious privilege look like?

Political representation.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:20 AM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


desjardins: ""Theist" is a default, like heterosexuality is a default. If you are atheist, if you are gay, you are "other." To be a default is to be privileged."

Tell that to a Muslim in the U.S.
posted by charred husk at 9:20 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Political representation.

My religion isn't represented politically.
posted by Miko at 9:22 AM on March 30, 2011


What happened to the 60% who are both religious and favor gay marriage?

They didn't exist.

60% of people who agree that "religion fairly important" to their lives favor gay marriage, but they must be a minority of religious people, since 75% of protestant/other Christians do not support legal gay marriage and 48% of Catholics don't either.
posted by callmejay at 9:22 AM on March 30, 2011


'"Theist" is a default,'

Where?


In your country, though not as much as in my country.

Reading this thread, I've come to the realisation that's it's just easier to talk about being an atheist in my tiny, no-separation-of-church-and-state, here's-your-school-issued-religious-tract-children, what-do-you-mean-the-earth-isn't-6000-years-old semi-developed country than it would be in here. At least my countrypeople's baseless mistrust of me inevitably wears away over time, which is more than I can say for my fellow internet atheists' misdirected shame at being associated with a philosophy that also appeals to, ew, 13-year-olds.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: " Curious question, is there a "Jewish" line of thought or typical, sanely state response on how to respond to this crazy belief?"

"It's probably best to avoid baying mobs carrying torches, wood planks and pitchforks." :D

Seriously, I have no idea. I'm not really a good person to ask this anyway because I was raised in a somewhat paranoid family. My parents saw that I was getting beaten up as a kid so they made sure I knew how to fight back and defend myself. Which I think is totally reasonable. But my mother and grandfather also taught me how to shoot a handgun and a rifle at ages 12 and 13 because, "You never know. 1930's Germany could happen again. We must be vigilant." Depending on your perspective, that's either batshitinsane or totally practical.

Anyway... it's been easier for me to deal with this stuff as an adult, partly because I'm not living in a small city with a tiny Jewish population anymore. It only happens rarely. As an adult, casual antisemitism ("I Jewed him down!") can be countered with politeness. A request that people not use that term, along with an explanation. Or, you can joke about it.

I haven't run into "the Jews killed Jesus" antisemitism since I became an adult. If someone's that far off the deep end of reality, then I want to avoid them as much as possible.
posted by zarq at 9:25 AM on March 30, 2011


My religion isn't represented politically.

TBH I've skimmed your comments in this thread, but I believe you identify as Christian, correct? If so, I .... don't know what to say. I've read enough of your posts to know that you're not the type to be willfully ignorant or stubborn. So I'm not sure how you can believe that Christianity is not represented in the political climate of the US.
posted by desjardins at 9:26 AM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


They didn't exist.

Sure they do. There's a breakdown by denomination here.
posted by Miko at 9:27 AM on March 30, 2011


desjardins: "My last comment was meant to be a sort of light-hearted ribbing of both zarq and Brandon Blatcher that at second glance is not appropriate to the tone of this thread."

I totally took it as a lighthearted joke. No worries. :)
posted by zarq at 9:27 AM on March 30, 2011


>What happened to the 60% who are both religious and favor gay marriage?

They didn't exist.


I don't exist?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:29 AM on March 30, 2011


But no, I'm just an ignoramus attacking a cartoon, just as feminists are just lesbians who hate men and wildly inflate rape statistics. This is how privilege works, folks.

I wasn't referring to you in particular, callmejay--I was describing a pattern. For that matter, referencing a Gallup poll isn't some majestic show of good faith, (particularly as you continue to argue away that 60 per cent), and comparing yourself to an embattled feminist is laughable at best. Delusions of persecution seem to be one of the fantasist refuges of the unhappy atheist. Yes, I know you don't win popularity contests, like elections. That doesn't mean you're oppressed. it means people don't like you. Yes, you got beat up for being an atheist. I've been severly beaten, twice, for being white. I am certainly not oppressed.
posted by generalist at 9:29 AM on March 30, 2011


I never really grokked why someone would care if the Jews killed Jesus or not. I mean, if they didn't kill him, would he have just gone on to live in retirement after a long career of rabble rousing and healing? The whole mythos is predicated on him dying and coming back, not living out a long natural life. Anyway.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:30 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how you can believe that Christianity is not represented in the political climate of the US.

I believe Christianity is represented in the political climate of the US, but as I say all the time, "Christianity" is a huge giant category that contains a whole lot of variants, and my brand of it is, most definitely, not represented. I was just searching and cannot find even one national-level politician who shares my denomination. In fact, in the history of the denomination, it was actually encouraged for people not to pursue public office because they could better follow their conscience by not subjecting themselves to possibly being swayed in their convictions by the political whims of the electoral process.
posted by Miko at 9:31 AM on March 30, 2011


Political representation.

My religion isn't represented politically.


Not to pile on you Miko, but I think the point is that as admitted atheist doesn't have much change of getting political office the United States..

Sure, your particular denomination isn't represented and that's an important point to make, but it doesn't change the larger fact about religion being important to voters in America.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:31 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't exist?

Sigh. I'm saying the 60% doesn't represent what Miko thought it did. It's not 60% of Americans or even 60% of religious Americans. It's 60% of people who say that religion is "fairly important" in their lives, which doesn't tell us anything about the percent of people who are religious overall.
posted by callmejay at 9:31 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't exist
posted by EmpressCallipygos


Aha! So you admit it! QED
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:31 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


desjardins: ""Theist" is a default, like heterosexuality is a default.

It is, I agree. But unless you're worshipping the correct Deity or deities, that default doesn't necessarily grant societal privileges. As Burhanistan said earlier, he's either a holy man or a terrorist.
posted by zarq at 9:32 AM on March 30, 2011


In other words, you are in the 25% of American non-Catholic Christians who do not oppose gay marriage. You may be ALSO be in the 60% of Americans who say that religion is "fairly important" in your life who do not oppose gay marriage. But that 60% is itself in a much smaller fraction of Americans.
posted by callmejay at 9:33 AM on March 30, 2011


as admitted atheist doesn't have much change of getting political office the United States.

That seems to be true. And I don't contest the point that religion is important to voters. What I wanted to hear more about is who would be the beneficiary of religious privilege. Muslims and Hindus also have a hard time moving into politics. Religion is important, but the significance it has can cut both ways.
posted by Miko at 9:34 AM on March 30, 2011


I'm saying the 60% doesn't represent what Miko thought it did. It's not 60% of Americans or even 60% of religious Americans. It's 60% of people who say that religion is "fairly important" in their lives, which doesn't tell us anything about the percent of people who are religious overall.

That sounds like an interesting way of interpreting the data so as to support a preconceived point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:34 AM on March 30, 2011


Small fractions exist.
posted by Miko at 9:34 AM on March 30, 2011


Anyway, 57% of mainline Protestant women isn't a small fraction. It's the majority of mainline Protestants. Do check out that table. It's sort of a tautology that more dogmatically conservative religions have more dogmatically conservative adherents - the fact that someone who is religious and a liberal thinker might not belong to a dogmatically conservative religion makes total sense. That doesn't mean they don't exist or aren't religious.
posted by Miko at 9:36 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


That sounds like an interesting way of interpreting the data so as to support a preconceived point.

I think my "interpretation" is the most straightforward. If you have a reason as to why that 60% figure is even relevant, please do share.
posted by callmejay at 9:37 AM on March 30, 2011


I disagree. I mean, if you don't believe in hell, how can "you're going to burn in hell" feel like a genuine threat?


a parable:

a: "join my gang because people who are not in my gang are bad people and tonight Big Jesse is going murder everyone who is not in our gang"

b: "dude you said that yesterday and it didn't happen and you guys talk all this shit but I Am pretty sure you guys are lying and there is no Big Jesse"

a: "well, I never met Big Jesse but why would Paul lie like that? and anyway Big Jesse loves you but if you don't join our gang he is going to torture you for, like, ever until you wish you were dead"

b can think a's specific threats are bullshit, and still consider them threats
posted by idiopath at 9:37 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay, I'm being glib, and I'm sorry.

My point, callmejay, is -- I'll grant you that if you want to gamble on a person being opposed to gay marriage based on their professed religious affiliation, the odds are indeed fairly good.

But -- would it not be safer to wait and see until they expressly state what their beliefs on gay marriage are, and then act based on a 100% chance of accuracy? That way, you don't lose the gamble and alienate a potential ally in the proces.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:37 AM on March 30, 2011


admitted atheist doesn't have much change of getting political office the United States.
that seems to be true.


Well, except for this guy, one of the longest-serving members of the US Congress and admitted atheist.
posted by dersins at 9:38 AM on March 30, 2011


Why in G_d's name are we talking about statistics? Statistics have nothing to do with this discussion. You can't express beliefs, or the coincidence of those beliefs, statistically. Saying "believing in hell makes you hate gay people, just look at the stats" is like saying "being black makes you like hip hop, look at the stats." Am I being crazy here?
posted by koeselitz at 9:38 AM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, "much chance" is not accurate, but "has a harder time" probably is.
posted by Miko at 9:39 AM on March 30, 2011


When did it become 25%/75% of non-Catholic Christians, instead of the previously given 33%/66%?
posted by ego at 9:39 AM on March 30, 2011


callmejay: " You say we know nothing or next-to-nothing about the topic, and yet I spent twenty years as an Orthodox Jew and seemed to know more about at least the Jewish conceptions of the afterlife than anyone else in the thread."

By the way, thanks for that. Your comments (and Mchelly's) were quite helpful, I thought.
posted by zarq at 9:41 AM on March 30, 2011


Nattie,

Thank you for being so honest, and careful and empathic. There's a lot in your comment, and I'm going to need to time to fully digest it, but I already feel like it's helped me to understand what it's like to be an atheist in a way that I never really have before. Reading your comment, I felt defensive at times, and then when I reflected on my defensiveness, it felt similar to how I feel when I'm having a kind of privileged defensiveness (like how I feel as a white person in some discussions about racism). I think you're right that there's a dynamic of privilege/oppression and I'd say that, for conversations about atheism to be healthier and safer, it's important for religious people to recognize their privilege.

(Aargh, I keep editing this comment but I am too tired to make it all as coherent as I want it to be. So it is what it is.)

At the same time, something about the way you frame that privilege/oppression bothers me. It's most clear in this sentence: Imagine if your country were ruled by a different religion than the one you hold. I don't have to imagine this, because it's my current reality. I'm Pagan, and the U.S. is (not literally but essentially) ruled by Christianity. And it seems like your framework leaves out people who are not Christian but who are spiritual and religious. I think those people also experience a degree of oppression. I'm not sure it's possible or helpful to try and rank oppressions. But I feel a little bit like you're talking about the dynamics of racism as if only white people and black people exist. When there are lots of different races, and all of them (other than white people) experience some kind of oppression.

I'm not sure if I'm saying what I mean clearly. One of the ways that people have pointed out that atheists are essentially oppressed is by pointing to polls about how most Americans would not consider voting for an atheist for president. That's an important and valid point. But would most Americans consider voting for a Buddhist to be president? A Jew? A Muslim? A Witch? A Sikh? A nebulous "spiritual but not religious" vaguely New-Agey person?

What I'm trying to say is that atheists are not the only "religious" minority in the United States. When I hear atheists making angry comments about religion in general, I don't just see an oppressed person responding to years of oppression and being silenced by being angry at people in the dominant group. I see an oppressed person attacking and silencing people in other oppressed groups, who have also been silenced. Do you know what I mean? I want to be clear that I don't think you're doing this, Nattie, at all--I'm just talking about what happens in general in these atheist vs. believer discussions on Metafilter.

Let me talk more personally for a minute. My spiritual tradition is pretty much the opposite of conservative Christianity--Reclaiming Witchcraft. It's explicitly feminist and queer and questions hierarchy and is all about people being their own spiritual authorities. I'm a queer person who was raised in a fundamentalist Christian household and forced to go to fundamentalist Christian schools until I left for college. That scarred me in a pretty deep way. I'm the type of person who is frequently used on Metafilter by atheists to argue that religion is intrinsically damaging and oppressive. But do you know what? Spirituality has done more than anything else to heal me from those wounds. Being in circles with women and queer people and declaring that our bodies are sacred, that God isn't some judgmental Father but a loving, fierce, wild Mother and dancing, shapeshifting Deities Beyond Gender, that (to use T. Thorn Coyle's phrase) God Herself is not singular but multiple--has been so amazingly good for me.

I can't believe I'm saying this on Metafilter (and I think that's indicative that non-Christian, non-atheists also face silencing and attacking, that this is not a safe space for us either) but spirituality and spiritual community have saved my life. Now, that doesn't mean that the experiences of atheists are invalid. It doesn't mean I don't have some degree of privilege. It does mean that I feel some of that threat that you were talking about, Nattie.

I think that for Pagans and some other religious minorities, part of our oppression is being rendered invisible. We don't really count, or we're not seen as a valid, serious religion, or we're just glossed over as if we don't exist. When atheists talk about all religions as if they are (conservative) Christianity, they are contributing to this dynamic.

Really, I think Pagans and atheists and other non-Christian minorities are natural allies. None of us want (conservative) Christian dominance. I think that you do a really good job of laying out the difficulties in communication in these conversations, Nattie, but I also wonder if there's an element of the dominant group manipulating minority groups into fighting with each other rather than uniting to transform society. You know, divide and conquer.

Thanks again for sharing your story and your thoughts. It inspired me to share mine. I hope doing so furthers mutual understanding and compassion. Ideally, I would like Metafilter (and the world) to be a space where I can tell my story and you can tell yours and no one feels attacked or invalidated or silenced.
posted by overglow at 9:43 AM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


When did it become 25%/75% of non-Catholic Christians, instead of the previously given 33%/66%?

Oops! You are absolutely right. It should read 66%. My mistake.
posted by callmejay at 9:44 AM on March 30, 2011


Am I being crazy here?

No, you're right - it's like what Brandon Blatcher was saying above - beliefs are personal. Even knowing that someone belongs to a denomination is not a perfect predictor of what they personally believe. Otherwise, there'd be no Catholics for Choice or for women in the priesthood or for gay marriage, and there are. That's one reason people chafe at comments that make generalizations like "You people believe the Bible is divinely inspired!" Well, no, religious people don't all believe that. "You people believe people can rise from the dead!" No, religious people don't all believe that.

It's much better to take people at their individual word about what they believe - something we almost never discuss in these arguments. That's what I think is meant by "cartoonish" characterizations - reasoning from the broadest outlines of what a denomination is assumed to think, rather than from the individual assertions or thoughts offered by the persons speaking. In all the arguing I've done about religion on the internet, I've never once, I don't think, been asked exactly what I believe. And I don't know that I'm willing to put my personal thinking about religion out there for review - it's nobody's business. So we sort of have to take people at their word when they say "Not all athiests are rude - I'm an athiest, and I'm not rude" or "Not all religious people oppose gay marriage - I'm religious, and I oppose gay marriage." We all have freedom of thought.
posted by Miko at 9:46 AM on March 30, 2011


Why in G_d's name are we talking about statistics? Statistics have nothing to do with this discussion. You can't express beliefs, or the coincidence of those beliefs, statistically. Saying "believing in hell makes you hate gay people, just look at the stats" is like saying "being black makes you like hip hop, look at the stats." Am I being crazy here?

Being Christian is not analogous to being black. Christianity is a religion, while black is a race, whatever that is. Many denominations of Christianity explicitly teach that homosexuality is evil. It's really not far of a leap to suggest that correlation, in this case, implies causation.

Sure, there might be some homophobes who turn to religion to justify their preexisting bigotry, but I think it's quite reasonable to assume the causation usually runs the other direction.
posted by callmejay at 9:47 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


zarq,

You're welcome. :-)
posted by callmejay at 9:47 AM on March 30, 2011


It strikes me as disingenuous for American Christians to defend theism against charges of privilege on the grounds that Muslims and Hindus don't have any. I'm pretty sure a major reason atheists take issue with theism as a whole instead of calling out the particular group with actual numbers, power and influence is to appease that group in the first place.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:47 AM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


In all the arguing I've done about religion on the internet, I've never once, I don't think, been asked exactly what I believe. And I don't know that I'm willing to put my personal thinking about religion out there for review - it's nobody's business. So we sort of have to take people at their word when they say "Not all athiests are rude - I'm an athiest, and I'm not rude" or "Not all religious people oppose gay marriage - I'm religious, and I oppose gay marriage." We all have freedom of thought.

I've actually not ever been asked what I believe either. I don't mind speaking of it myself, though -- in fact, I think I may have mentioned once or twice. I'm curious now, though, how many may have caught what I've expressly said about myself rather than making an assumption.

And it's the making-of-assumptions that bugs me, is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:48 AM on March 30, 2011


I feel like we're going in circles, here --

Being Christian is not analogous to being black. Christianity is a religion, while black is a race, whatever that is.

In the sense that "not all members of this subset are EXACTLY 100% ALIKE," it most definitely is analogous.

Many denominations of Christianity explicitly teach that homosexuality is evil. It's really not far of a leap to suggest that correlation, in this case, implies causation.

Except for the fact that there are also many denominations of Christianity that don't teach this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:50 AM on March 30, 2011


Er, don't oppose. I'm obviously writing too fast.

Anyway, I'm not in opposition to the idea that there might be religious privilege, but I do think it's a lot narrower than just theism - I think the privilege, in the US anyway, is for a bandwidth of Christianity that includes mainline and evangelical Christians and, fairly recently, also can include Catholics. I wouldn't say that other Christian denominations or other denominations outside Christianity are afforded that kind of privilege. It's pretty interesting to think about how and why these particular denominations achieved their ascendancy, but such a big topic. To start even thinking about it one has to acknowledge that not all Christian denominations are the same.
posted by Miko at 9:52 AM on March 30, 2011


You appear to be arguing against things I never said. Obviously, not all Christians and not all Christian denominations are alike. I know that well.
posted by callmejay at 9:54 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think that's all anyone was asking to have established.
posted by Miko at 9:56 AM on March 30, 2011


It appeared to me that EC was trying to establish that Christians who did things like opposing gay marriage represented a small, extremist minority rather than a significant majority.
posted by callmejay at 9:59 AM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


You appear to be arguing against things I never said. Obviously, not all Christians and not all Christian denominations are alike. I know that well.

It appears, though, that you are on the one hand saying that you know that some denominations oppose gay marriage and some don't, but on the other, are assuming that all of the individual Christians you meet belong to the denominations that do. You claim to know that they're not all alike, but you give the impression of one who deep down believes they ARE all alike.

If I have miscontstrued this about you, fair enough, but that is the impression I've taken.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:00 AM on March 30, 2011


It appeared to me that EC was trying to establish that Christians who did things like opposing gay marriage represented a small, extremist minority rather than a significant majority.

No, I'm trying to establish that "you SAY you know Christians ain't all alike, but you've also admitted you believe there's cause to treat them as if they ARE all alike." Whether that was your intent or not, I'll leave it to you to clarify. But that's the impression I gathered.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:01 AM on March 30, 2011


Ah, the bellyaching of the usual suspects.

The post, to put it simply, is about the following. Rob Bell published a book advocating Universalism, a doctrine that many evangelical Christians consider to be heresy. Chad Holtz was fired from his position as a minister for supporting Bell's work. Rabbi Herschfield published an essay in response to the controversy criticizing the doctrines of hell and salvation by faith, which are traditional and widely accepted among Christians.

Sure there's a bit of LOL Christianity going on, but there's also some fairly reasonable discussion which some people seem intent on shitting on by going meta.

And skins seem to be particularly thin on this one. EC's complaint appears to be that we're not being fair by talking about the doctrines of hell and salvation, in spite of the fact that these are central issues to the FPP. gjc does his own flavor of thread-shitting.

EC: Except for the fact that there are also many denominations of Christianity that don't teach this.

Yes, we know you're a nice, liberal, gay-positive, universalist with pretentions of interfaith discussion. Surely we can take it as understood that theists are not a monolithic hive mind on these issues without you insisting on reminding us every post, demanding milk and cookies for your open-mindeness, and scolding people for addressing the same theologies critiqued by Bell, Holz, and Herschfield?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:02 AM on March 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


On the privilege discussion, I agree that the "theistic" privilege is often wrapped up in "Judeo-Christian" privilege, itself only a generation or two removed from WASP privilege when even Catholics were "other."

That said, I think there is a unique privilege that religious beliefs themselves (as opposed to religious people) are granted very often. That is the privilege that declares all challenges to religious beliefs as rude or invasive or arrogant, as if religious beliefs unlike all others should be free from challenge or the need to be defending in a rational manner.
posted by callmejay at 10:03 AM on March 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


There's not any cause to be sarcastic and belittling at this point in the thread.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:04 AM on March 30, 2011


Surely we can take it as understood that theists are not a monolithic hive mind on these issues without you insisting on reminding us every post, demanding milk and cookies for your open-mindeness, and scolding people for addressing the same theologies critiqued by Bell, Holz, and Herschfield?

I'm not certain you've understood the source of my complaint. My apologies for not being clear.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:05 AM on March 30, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: "shakesperean and zarq again, I've stated that where I personally draw the line is between whether people do something to me based on their beliefs about me, or whether people just say something to me based on their beilefs about me.

And if all they do is talk but not act, then to me, there isn't any "greater than/less than" scale in terms of what they say.
"

My point is simply that beliefs sometimes lead to actions.
posted by zarq at 10:07 AM on March 30, 2011


My point is simply that beliefs sometimes lead to actions.

Fair. By extension, though, an belief-based action upon you does greater injury than a belief-based statement about you. My point was that my scale measures "action vs. statement" rather than "statement category A vs. statement category B".

The issue I was responding to was that one type of statement was worse than another type of statement. And I was saying that such statements aren't great, no, but they're both just statements as opposed to actions. If beliefs lead to actions, it's the actions part that does the worst injury -- you can't make me break out in welts by sitting there staring at me and thinking real hard.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on March 30, 2011


My apologies for not being clear.

1: Yes, we know that not all Christians are anti-gay, it's been acknowledged multiple times.
2: Yes, we know that not all Christians believe in the doctrine of Hell, it's the topic of the FPP after all.

Any other completely manufactured claims to rudeness that you wish to complain about?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:20 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Kirk, again, I'm not certain where this ire is coming from of a sudden, but I'm sorry for whatever part I played in it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:21 AM on March 30, 2011


Speaking of the FPP, it's titled "Theological Clusterf***". Can anyone really disagree that that's exactly what we got?
posted by ego at 10:22 AM on March 30, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: "Fair. By extension, though, an belief-based action upon you does greater injury than a belief-based statement about you.

The issue I was responding to was that one type of statement was worse than another type of statement. And I was saying that such statements aren't great, no, but they're both just statements as opposed to actions. If beliefs lead to actions, it's the actions part that does the worst injury -- you can't make me break out in welts by sitting there staring at me and thinking real hard.
"

I understand what you're saying, but I also know from past experience that it's often best to be wary of people who give voice to certain ideas. Also, I would say that the degree of harm that can be inflicted through a statement would be dependent on what's being said, for precisely the reason I highlighted in my previous comment. If a statement creates an environment where one group is valued less than another then that can be dangerous. If the statement in question is religion-driven hate speech, then that's really problematic.

You're trying to argue that statements and actions should be divided and considered two completely separate entities. They can't always be. When it comes to hate speech, they're certainly intertwined. You can't divorce them from each other simply by saying a concept isn't all that bad unless someone happens to take action on it.
posted by zarq at 10:30 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think I'm not being clear about what I was attempting to do with that argument, zarq. I wasn't trying to convince anyone that they should also believe "all statements are alike". I was trying to explain why I felt "all statements are alike." The response I'm hoping to get isn't "okay, you're right and I agree with you," it's only, "okay, I understand why you said that now."

For the record, I still differentiate between plain statements versus actions, but I also acknowledge that that's just me and your mileage may vary.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:34 AM on March 30, 2011


Empress, okay.
posted by zarq at 10:40 AM on March 30, 2011


Speaking of the FPP, it's titled "Theological Clusterf***". Can anyone really disagree that that's exactly what we got?

I actually unfollowed that thread when I was trying to unfollow this one. I mean look:

Theological Clusterf***
Not all religious discussions need to focus on the existence of G-d

Which is the MeTa thread that is people bitching at each other and which is he MeFi thread that is people bitching at each other? So confusing!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:41 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Which is the MeTa thread that is people bitching at each other and which is he MeFi thread that is people bitching at each other?

Take it to AskMe.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:48 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


At this point, take it to Projects.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:49 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or Music.
posted by Miko at 10:51 AM on March 30, 2011


Shoot, it seems we've made a full time career out of it here so maybe Jobs.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:52 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Clearly we need to discuss it over beers.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:53 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is there any reason IRL isn't called Beers?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:58 AM on March 30, 2011


Way to exclude the Muslims cortex!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:58 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clearly we need to discuss it over beers.

As an atheist, I require something with a little more proof. At least 80.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:59 AM on March 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


I drink single malt notrueScotch, man.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:01 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


EC: If it's not about you, don't make it about you. When people talk about homophobia in religious congregations, don't assume they're ignorant of gay-positive ones. When people talk about the doctrines of hell and salvation, don't assume they're ignorant of Universalist theology.

So no, I don't understand your complaints because they don't make a lick of sense. You're beating a dead horse when it comes to gay-positive and universalist Christians for what exactly? Why are you badgering callmejay, accusing him of unspoken prejudice when he's explicitly acknowledged gay-positive Christians? Was there ever a shred of doubt regarding the existence of gay-positive or Universalist Christians?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:03 AM on March 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


"I stand by my statement that it is not a derail because there are atheists who became atheists after grappling with the idea of hell. This ties in to the discussion of privilege in my comment: to a theist or agnostic, who has not had the experience of grappling with the idea of hell and becoming atheist, there is no obvious connection to the atheism discussion -- but to an atheist who has had that experience, it is relevant."

Every train that derails got there by the tracks. By shifting the conversation off of Hell, it does and did become a referendum on faith. Just because something is connected doesn't mean it's not a derail, and the question of over-arching faith is much broader and largely separate from the discussion of universalism and hell. Attempting to tie that derail to theistic privilege (a concept so overbroad as to be functionally useless in most instances).
posted by klangklangston at 11:08 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow KirkJobSluder, you're my new model for how to be an asshole.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:08 AM on March 30, 2011


Kirk, do you have some history with EC we don't know about? It's pretty fucking creepy the way you came busting into the end of a thread, guns-a-blazin', to target one single specific participant in a lengthy thread with dozens of participants and sub-conversations.
posted by dersins at 11:12 AM on March 30, 2011


When people talk about homophobia in religious congregations, don't assume they're ignorant of gay-positive ones. When people talk about the doctrines of hell and salvation, don't assume they're ignorant of Universalist theology. So no, I don't understand your complaints because they don't make a lick of sense. You're beating a dead horse when it comes to gay-positive and universalist Christians for what exactly?

For the record, here is where the tangent of gay marriage was introduced into the conversation. You will note I was not the one doing the introducing.

Why are you badgering callmejay, accusing him of unspoken prejudice when he's explicitly acknowledged gay-positive Christians?

Again, I'm sorry I was not clear -- I am not "accusing him of unspoken prejudice." There is a differnence between "ah, you SAY you think this, but you ALSO say that, you hypocrite!" and, "you say this, but you've ALSO said that, and those points contradict, and perhaps I've misunderstood you or you didn't intend to say one of them or I've read you wrong. I'd like for you to clarify." My intent was the latter, and if THAT was not clear, that's my own failing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:13 AM on March 30, 2011


"I honestly think there's a lot of theistic privilege that goes unnoticed by the privileged. In many places, a simple vocal disagreement with theistic beliefs is met with outrage and moral indignation, as if theistic beliefs should be uniquely free from criticism."

That's an over-reaching appeal to another discussion — in MetaFilter, the repeated assertion that theists act as if belief should be "free from criticism" is simply unsupported, and acting from that presumption is obnoxious.

"Even on places with mefi, where there are many atheists and even the theists seem to share more theological beliefs with atheists than with 67% of American Christians, this persists in the idea that atheists are "arrogant" for simply stating their beliefs."

This is a misrepresentation of the charge of arrogance: The charge of arrogance comes from atheists lecturing theists on what the theists believe.

"The one or two atheists who descend into mocking and derision are held up as examples of what atheists are like, and then even the "good" atheists start chiming in to brag about how good they are and how they never criticize religion. They'll imply that criticizing religion is something juvenile, that people's religious beliefs are their own business."

Well, since faith is inherently subjective, in large part it is people's own business. And again, you've mistaken the rejection of dumb and juvenile "criticisms" of religion with a blanket injunction against criticisms. There is not and has never been an implication that criticizing religion is juvenile, but that doesn't mean that many criticisms of religion aren't juvenile.
posted by klangklangston at 11:18 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


dersins: Kirk, do you have some history with EC we don't know about?

She has a repeated habit of these derails. But it's a general rule that not every religious thread should be turned into a referendum on perceived atheist rudeness either. And yet that frequently happens.

EC: For the record, here is where the tangent of gay marriage was introduced into the conversation. You will note I was not the one doing the introducing.

I don't understand how those statements constitute either a slur on all Christians, or a commentary on your personal religious faith.

EC: Again, I'm sorry I was not clear -- I am not "accusing him of unspoken prejudice." There is a differnence between "ah, you SAY you think this, but you ALSO say that, you hypocrite!" and, "you say this, but you've ALSO said that, and those points contradict, and perhaps I've misunderstood you or you didn't intend to say one of them or I've read you wrong. I'd like for you to clarify." My intent was the latter, and if THAT was not clear, that's my own failing.

No, I don't think you were clear. But your claims to contradiction don't make a lick of sense to me and I'll accept that wasn't your intention.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:31 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how those statements constitute either a slur on all Christians, or a commentary on your personal religious faith.

Then we're at an impasse, and I'll just say "it's been good to hear from you."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:35 AM on March 30, 2011


Christian privilege exists and is particularly obnoxious.

And yes, I know there are liberal Christians. I was a quaker for years. I'm married to a UU. Can I criticize Christianity yet?
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:41 AM on March 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


What I don't get is, why someone would want to criticize "Christianity" when fundamentalism seems to be the actual problem.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:44 AM on March 30, 2011


What percent of American Christians would you consider fundamentalist?
posted by callmejay at 11:45 AM on March 30, 2011


And if it is, flag and move on. Or just move on because it's annoying as heck to see people get into pissing matches over whether it's fair to criticize heterosexism in American Christianity under a post about afterlife beliefs and doctrines.

What I don't get is, why someone would want to criticize "Christianity" when fundamentalism seems to be the actual problem.

Heterosexism isn't unique to fundamentalism, in either experience or American politics.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:53 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


What percent of American Christians would you consider fundamentalist?

I have no idea. But that is not germane to my point anyway.

I'll explain.

I'm not talking strictly about CHRISTIAN fundamentalism in the first place. I'm talking about fundamentalism as a character trait -- meaning, "the notion that there is only one way to think about a given thing." There are fundamentalists in all groups.

It's not a person's personal belief that I see as problematic -- it's whether they believe that everyone must agree with them on that point or else. And you can find people who think that in all walks of life, and in all belief systems. I'll grant that there are probably a greater percentage of Christian fundamentalists than there are Jewish ones or atheist ones or even Red Sox fan ones, in the United States -- but even so, I doubt that it's the Christianity itself that is at issue, only their refusal to "live and let live" about it.

Which, to me, indicates that it is their drive towards fundamentalism that is the problem. If the fundamentalist, literalist, dominionist Christians were strictly Christian but were NOT fundamentalist and dominionist, but were still Christian, I doubt we'd have as much conflict.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:55 AM on March 30, 2011


Feh, I keep forgetting to add my closing sentences.

I imagine that a number of people agree that the whole "thinking like a fundamentalist about any issue" is a problem, and my hope is, we can come to a lot more concensus by working collectively to erradicate the notion of fundamentalism itself and promote a more "live and let live" attitude of tolerance and acceptance. Because if no one is saying "my way or the highway," then it doesn't matter what highway any of us is on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:58 AM on March 30, 2011


Totally sincere question: can you oppose abortion or embryonic stem cell research for religious reasons without being fundamentalist?
posted by neuromodulator at 12:03 PM on March 30, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: "...or even Red Sox fan ones..."

She didn't mean it! I'm sure she didn't mean that! Red Sox fans are calm, reasonable people! Quite rational! Not crazy at ALL! Put the bats down!

EMPRESS, RUN!


*cough* Just trying to lighten the mood....
posted by zarq at 12:05 PM on March 30, 2011


Totally sincere question: can you oppose abortion or embryonic stem cell research for religious reasons without being fundamentalist?

....I don't see why not.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:11 PM on March 30, 2011


I would like to amend my question: can you oppose abortion or embryonic stem cell research for religious reasons to the extent that you would like to limit those practices by others without being fundamentalist? Or does any "extension to limiting the behavior of others" denote fundamentalism?
posted by neuromodulator at 12:12 PM on March 30, 2011


I was just about to amend my own point, actually.

But in light of your question...I don't know. I think that mixing religious belief and legislation may be muddying the waters.

But mixing religion and legislation is a whole separate issue, largely because our Constitution says you're not supposed to be doing that in the first place. And that's why most court cases are more about "is this law a subtle way of trying to legislate one particular religion's morality past all others" rather than "is the issue this law is about right or wrong."

Meaning, there's law, and then there's morality. With the abortion debate, people's opinions are drawn from things like medicine, human rights, and the law rather than just religion. The debate is more over "how much autonomy should the government grant an individual" rather than "should the government adopt THIS religion or THAT religion's views".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:17 PM on March 30, 2011


Arg. Forgot my last sentence YET again.

In the case of "can someone be opposed to abortion for religious reasons and yet not be fundamentalist," I believe it's possible because -- I've met plenty of people who say "I personally, for religious reasons, believe abortion is wrong -- but I also believe that everyone should be able to make up their own mind about it."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:19 PM on March 30, 2011


Birthers are racist.
posted by orthogonality at 12:25 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


sometimes I feel like I refer to one or the both of these a lot but I swear they are directly relevant to this discussion

1) be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle

2) please go here and check out Bob Altemeyer's "The Authoritarians" [CAUTION: PAGE CONTAINS LINKS TO PDFS, CANADIAN CONTENT]. It's a summation of decades of work, and contains nutritious Numbers and Science yet is written in a personable and humorous manner that makes it all go down smooth. Long story short, the idea expressed in this thread that "it's fundamentalists that are the problem, irrespective of their particular ideology" is on the money.

Don't take it from me, though, read the damn thing, it's free and interesting. I wouldn't put myself out proselytizing like this, especially not here, if I didn't think it was both directly relevant and useful. I know how annoying the missionary can be.
posted by jtron at 12:26 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Totally sincere question: can you oppose abortion or embryonic stem cell research for religious reasons without being fundamentalist?"

Yes.

"I would like to amend my question: can you oppose abortion or embryonic stem cell research for religious reasons to the extent that you would like to limit those practices by others without being fundamentalist? Or does any "extension to limiting the behavior of others" denote fundamentalism?"

Yes.

Fundamentalism is another descriptor, like evangelical, that gets overused.

Fundamentalism is, in American Christianity, largely the adherence to five points of doctrine:

—The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.
—The virgin birth of Christ.
—The belief that Christ's death was the atonement for sin.
—The bodily resurrection of Christ.
—The historical reality of Christ's miracles.

These beliefs are often confused with other constellations of belief (and there is a lot of overlap within the communities) such as evangelicalism or Biblical literalism (fundamentalism does not require literal interpretation of the Bible), but the real marker of Fundamentalism as a movement is its refusal to associate spiritually with non-fundamentalist creeds.

But belief that one's religion prohibits abortion or stem-cell research does not doctrinally imply any of those other positions. It does imply a conservative, illiberal and right-wing interpretation of whatever creed this hypothetical person adheres to, but that's not necessarily a statement about fundamentalism except that fundamentalism is highly correlated with illiberal and right-wing interpretations of faith, and the Fundamentalist movement certainly came out of an illiberal and right-wing context.

A pretty good overview can be found here.
posted by klangklangston at 12:28 PM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


EC: I'm talking about fundamentalism as a character trait -- meaning, "the notion that there is only one way to think about a given thing."

I object to this on two grounds. The first is that actual scriptural fundamentalism includes a fair amount of live-and-let-live separatism in addition to the American Religious Right. The second problem is that we are talking about specific religious movements with a culture and history.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:37 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I object to this on two grounds. The first is that actual scriptural fundamentalism includes a fair amount of live-and-let-live separatism in addition to the American Religious Right. The second problem is that we are talking about specific religious movements with a culture and history.

There is the "fundamentalism" I'm describing, which is a character trait, and then there is the "Fundamentalism" you are thinking of, which is a self-adopted term that a set of those on the Religious Right use to refer to themselves.

I am not speaking of capital-F fundamentalism. I'm speaking of little-f fundamentalism.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:40 PM on March 30, 2011


This is all way too muddled to have any kind of sensible conversation.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:41 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


What I don't get is, why someone would want to criticize "Christianity" when fundamentalism seems to be the actual problem.


You're begging the question.

There are reasons to criticize Christianity that have nothing to do with Fundies, and everything to do with the fundamental shared beliefs of Christians.

You keep waving your hands, "don't forget about us liberal Christians, we love the gays, don't you Atheists lump us in with the Fundies!" Yeah we get it, you're not a Fundie, you don't want us to burn in Hell, even if you think we just might.

Yeah, we know about liberal Christianity. Yeah, it's a lot better than the Fundies. Yeah, we'd like to make common cause with Liberal Christians against the Fundies; that increases comity here and makes pragmatic sense.

But yes, it is possible to to want to criticize Christianity (even liberal, some-of-my-best-friends-are-gay-Jewish-pagans).

Since you don't "get" why, maybe you'd do well to listen to Phil Ochs explain it in "Love Me, I'm a Liberal":
I go to civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don't talk about revolution
That's going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I read New Republic and Nation
I've learned to take every view
You know, I've memorized Lerner and Golden
I feel like I'm almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like Korea
There's no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal
posted by orthogonality at 12:42 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Okay, orthogonality, can we make a deal?

If you want to "criticize Christianity", can you promise that you'll criticize it accurately?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:49 PM on March 30, 2011


EC: Surely, we can do better with a term to describe psychological rigidity without appropriating one from a religious movement.

orthogonality: Some religious liberals like to claim a Goldilocks spirituality, and liberally stereotype both religious conservatives and atheists as unenlightened to advance that. (Some, not all, but enough to make me a bit skeptical of claims to interfaith understanding.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:52 PM on March 30, 2011


Surely, we can do better with a term to describe psychological rigidity without appropriating one from a religious movement.

Actually, the religious movement appropriated the term, not the other way around.

But if you'd prefer to use the term "psychological rigidity" instead, I'm fine with that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:54 PM on March 30, 2011


You want to know a type of "religious liberal" that raises my silent hackles? Someone who calls him/herself an "Interfaith Minister". Blech. Great, you recognize the diversity and validity of many faiths. Lovely. But that doesn't mean you're now able to minister to anyone from other faiths or serve as some kind of peace bridge just because you took a silly little course that gave you a certificate. And for dog's sake don't put that shit in your email signature.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:55 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the interest of lightening the mood a bit -- Burhanistan, as it turns out I do know such an Interfaith Minister; someone I went to high school with. She drifted for a while, then took such a course and opened up such a service somewhere in Rhode Island.

But the reason she grates on me is that she was always kind of a bitch, and being an Interfaith Minister apparently didn't do anything to fix that, so fuck 'er.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:58 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey Kirk and Empress: a term for what you are talking about does indeed exist. It's "right-wing authoritarianism," and it's the focus of the book I linked a few posts above. Check it out, or just check out the wikipedia article on RWA.
posted by jtron at 12:59 PM on March 30, 2011


If you want to "criticize Christianity", can you promise that you'll criticize it accurately?

Are you accusing me of intentionally writing something I knew to be inaccurate?

Because otherwise, what's the point of your request for a "promise"?

As I certainly can't promise to only make criticism you'll agree with, it seems to me that you're coming painfully close to accusing me of being intentionally disingenuous, with the implication that that "inaccuracy" is because of or in furtherance of my theological beliefs.

In other words, you request for a "promise" looks to me a lot like a bigoted slur: "atheists write lies about Christianity".
posted by orthogonality at 1:02 PM on March 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


But belief that one's religion prohibits abortion or stem-cell research does not doctrinally imply any of those other positions. It does imply a conservative, illiberal and right-wing interpretation of whatever creed this hypothetical person adheres to,

Huh? I think this is badly phrased (E.g. opposition to abortion is not right-wing Catholicism, it's mainstream Catholicism.)
posted by Jahaza at 1:05 PM on March 30, 2011


Perhaps they wasn't talking about atheists; perhaps they were talking about you specifically just like you're not talking to "Christians".

And saying, "Tread carefully; some people let their zeal outrun their aim" seems to be neither accusing anyone of distortion and a pretty good thing for everyone to take to heart.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:07 PM on March 30, 2011


Are you accusing me of intentionally writing something I knew to be inaccurate?

No.

Because otherwise, what's the point of your request for a "promise"?

Because I have seen many MANY other people in here want to talk about how "Christians do [foo], but either a) they are working on incorrect information about whatever aspect they're criticizing, or b) they are taking a thing SOME Christians do and projecting it onto ALL Christians.

Meaning, if you want to criticize transubstantiation, say, it doesn't make sense to work with the assumption that Baptists believe it. It also doesn't make sense to base your argument about Why Transubstantiation Is Silly on a claim that "ancient Christians used to use actual cadavers in their early rituals."

Now, I'm not saying you PERSONALLY have made either of these claims, and I'm also not saying anyone in here has done something quite that ridiculous. I admit I am exaggerating. But that is to illustrate my point.

As I certainly can't promise to only make criticism you'll agree with, it seems to me that you're coming painfully close to accusing me of being intentionally disingenuous, with the implication that that "inaccuracy" is because of or in furtherance of my theological beliefs. In other words, you request for a "promise" looks to me a lot like a bigoted slur: "atheists write lies about Christianity".

It was not meant to mean "atheists write lies about Christianity." It was meant to be the request that "if you're gonna issue a critique, just don't lump all Christians together unless you really know that all Christians ACTUALLY DO do what you're criticizing."

Incidentally, what kind of "criticisms against Christianity" would you want to be making?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:11 PM on March 30, 2011


"Huh? I think this is badly phrased (E.g. opposition to abortion is not right-wing Catholicism, it's mainstream Catholicism.)"

I might quibble based on a broader view of American Catholicism, but I have no problem saying that your reference to "mainstream" is relative to Catholicism and not American political thought, ergo "mainstream" Catholicism can still be right-wing, and it is currently, with the most revanchist Pope in modern memory after a relatively moderate Pope. Until a fairly recent (in the last couple of generations) mobilization of the Religious Right, "mainstream" Catholics were reliably part of the liberal Democrat bloc, mostly due to the religious persecution of Catholics by establishment Protestants and the immigrant roots of most American Catholics (both German and Irish).

But due to waning membership and ascendency of charismatic and Opus Dei dominionist Catholics within the hierarchy, especially in reaction against Liberation Theology as a global Catholic movement, "mainstream" Catholics are much more likely to be right-wing currently.
posted by klangklangston at 1:15 PM on March 30, 2011


but I have no problem saying that your reference to "mainstream" is relative to Catholicism and not American political thought, ergo "mainstream" Catholicism can still be right-wing, and it is currently, with the most revanchist Pope in modern memory after a relatively moderate Pope.

That's exactly my point.

You wrote: But belief that one's religion prohibits abortion or stem-cell research does not doctrinally imply any of those other positions. It does imply a conservative, illiberal and right-wing interpretation of whatever creed this hypothetical person adheres to,

But what you're saying now is closer to:
belief that one's religion prohibits abortion or stem-cell research does not doctrinally imply any of those other positions. It does imply that the creed the person adheres to is conservative, illiberal and right-wing
Since I figured you meant the latter rather than the former, I wrote "I think this is badly phrased"
posted by Jahaza at 1:19 PM on March 30, 2011


and ascendency of charismatic and Opus Dei dominionist Catholics within the hierarchy,

Oooh... But neither of those things are happening. Certainly more conservative clerics are being elevated to the episcopacy, but charismatic Catholics aren't particularly ascendent these days within the hierarchy, the only charismatic prelate I can think of off the top of my head is Cardinal Arinze, who is retired.

And Opus Dei isn't particularly ascendent either... despite the recent appointment of Archbishop Gomez (the most famous Opus Dei linked cleric of the 20th century, by the way, after Escriva was Oscar Romero). But to call Opus Dei "dominionist" is to fundamentally misunderstand Opus Dei. (Unless your definition of dominionist is so broad that it means that you're a dominionist if you seek the Christian governance of your nation by means of evangelizing the entire population, which is ridiculous, because it makes every Christian a dominionist.)
posted by Jahaza at 1:26 PM on March 30, 2011


Also, going after interfaith ministry? For real?
posted by jtron at 1:27 PM on March 30, 2011


orthogonality, I think I got a little harsh and long-winded, sorry; let me sum up, more calmly.

What I mean is -- sometimes I've seen people argue certain aspects of religion in here, but they are basing these arguments on incorrect or incomplete information. They didn't intend to "tell lies", and I wouldn't accuse them of that.

However, I would say that they may have done what my father called "going off half-cocked". It's the equivalent of hearing a rumor that that kid in the house down the street eats "toad food", and then going off on this whole huge tangent about how that kid is going to the PetCo Lizards-n-frogs section for his snacks -- instead of turning to the person who told you that and asking, "wait, are you sure it's 'toad food' he eats, and not 'TOFU'?"

I actually enjoy healthy debate about religion (I'm weird that way). But I do ask that someone I debate with does at least know that they're working from accurate information. I've seen a few too many debates that were founded on inaccurate information; the person engaging in debate may not have intended to be inaccurate, but I always find that someone checking to see "what [insert this relgious group here] really believes" before engaging in debate is wise, personally.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:30 PM on March 30, 2011


> For real?

It's all pretend on the internet so don't worry: no one is going after anyone else.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:31 PM on March 30, 2011


Incidentally, what kind of "criticisms against Christianity" would you want to be making?

Have you been intentionally trolling (or derailing) this whole time?

Ever since your derail in the original thread about measuring the weight of souls at death?

I ignored that as frankly silly and off-topic, but you just keep coming back, implying over and over that you're being persecuted by Big Bad Atheists who inexplicably fail to acknowledge that your special pleading as the Good-hearted Liberal Special Snowflake Christian refutes any argument they might make.

It's like that joke, "as the Polar Bear said to the unlucky hunter, 'Let's face it, you're not coming here for the hunting, are you?'"
posted by orthogonality at 1:33 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm glad that you "ignored that as silly and off topic," but I see that you also ignored that I AGREED it was "silly and off-topic."

I will wait for you to read what I really mean.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:36 PM on March 30, 2011


It's like that joke..

Oh lovely, now we're on to the ass-fuckin' jokes. Stay classy, ortho.
posted by dersins at 1:37 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dualism is for suckers.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:39 PM on March 30, 2011


Burhanistan, I disagree. If you were trying to make some oblique point by your comment besides "interfaith ministers are assholes with flimsy theology" or something similar, the intent was obscure. And the assertion that "it's all imaginary on the internet so it doesn't matter what you say" is false and disingenuous as well as being poisonous to the idea of online community.
posted by jtron at 1:43 PM on March 30, 2011


AElfwine Evenstar: "Dualism is for suckers"

Worse, it is for heretics, at least in terms of Heaven/Hell.
posted by charred husk at 1:51 PM on March 30, 2011


jtron: My point about so-called "Interfaith Ministers" (the kind who insist on capitalization) is that they are neither. It's not like they can lead the Muslim prayers and then go serve the Eucharist after consecrating offerings to Ganesha. I wasn't "going after" anyone with my little diatribe.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:52 PM on March 30, 2011


Worse, it is for heretics, at least in terms of Heaven/Hell.

I was using dualism in the philosophical sense. Basically the belief that the mind/consciousness/soul is separate from the brain. Consciousness didn't exist for billions of years and it emerged recently(as far as we can tell) out of biology. If there is a dualism I could buy into it would have to involve panpsychism. But then of course there is argument about whether panspsychism actually implies a dualism.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 2:10 PM on March 30, 2011


What percent of American Christians would you consider fundamentalist?

In the Faith Matters poll Protestants are divided into 3 categories: Evangelical, Mainline, and Black Protestants. The Evangelicals split from the Mainlines in the early 1900s over a debate between fundamentalists and modernists-- modernists were accused of increasingly adopting "liberal theology, biblical higher criticism, and an increased skepticism about supernaturalism." Quoted from American Grace. Note that "Evangelicals" are comprised of fundamentalists, Pentecostals, and neo-Evangelical or moderate fundamentalists. With that definition in mind
30% of Americans self-identify as Evangelicals
25% of Americans self-identify as Catholic
17% of Americans self identify as having no religious affiliation1
14% of Americans self-identify as Mainline Protestant
8% of Americans self-identify as Black Protestant
3% of Americans self-identify as Other Faiths2
2% of Americans self-identify as Jewish
2% of Americans self-identify as Mormon
1Atheists as well as anyone who did not identify with any one particular church
2Including Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and many more.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:36 PM on March 30, 2011


orthogonality: “Have you been intentionally trolling (or derailing) this whole time? Ever since your derail in the original thread about measuring the weight of souls at death? I ignored that as frankly silly and off-topic, but you just keep coming back, implying over and over that you're being persecuted by Big Bad Atheists who inexplicably fail to acknowledge that your special pleading as the Good-hearted Liberal Special Snowflake Christian refutes any argument they might make.”

What she's been trying to do is defend herself and her ideas from frankly irrational attacks made in a tense atmosphere. That's not easy.

For review, here's a simplified version of the conversation she was trying to deal with; please correct me in places where I'm wrong on this:

Other people: "Being religious is pretty much the same as believing in hell, and tends to make you hate gay people, people of other races, and humans in general."

Empress: "But that's not really fair – I mean, I am a liberal Christian, and I don't believe in hell or hate people like that!"

Other people: "Empress, you're being silly. Of course there are liberal Christians like that; we never said there weren't. We said being religious tends to make you hateful."

Empress: "What do you mean 'tends'? That doesn't really seem fair, either."

Other people: "Just look at the statistics!"

There are ways to make criticisms of religion. This ain't one of them. This whole thing of talking about how religious people tend to act and how they statistically act is, as I've said repeatedly, not a sensical way to criticize ideas. I could say that 98% of murderers in the United States over the past fifty years have believed in the theory of atoms, but that doesn't mean atomism causes murder. I can, however, say that antisocial personality disorder is a contributing factor to murder; how do I say that? By drawing direct and rational inferences between the disorder and the crime: I say, for example, that antisocial personality disorder weakens and even deadens a person's sense of empathy, and is usually accompanied by violence, and therefore that it increases a person's propensity toward violent crime.

In the same way, you could make inferences about how Christianity is destructive or tends toward bigotry. But in that case, you'd have to talk about what Christians believe. That's something that has, maddeningly, not happened at all, either in the thread in question or here.

I know it's tempting, as an atheist who looks out over history, to say things like: "look at the hideous legacy of Christianity! This faith is clearly evil. It's done nothing but harm. Therefore, to believe in these ideas is to tend toward that harm." The difficulty is that that's generally a form of ad hominem argument; the fact that Christians in the past have done hideous, terrible things (and I don't think anyone can disagree that they have) does not mean that Christianity itself is evil, as strong as the inference may seem.

What's ironic is that the linked article in the post was criticizing Christianity (or at least mainstream Christianity) by making an argument that believing in hell makes a person less likely to treat fellow humans decency. It was more than surprising to me that, rather than seizing on and agreeing with that frankly poignant argument against the doctrine and talking about it, several atheists in the thread seems preoccupied with criticizing and discrediting the author of the linked article simply because he happens to be a Rabbi.

I don't happen to agree with that argument against a belief in hell, by the way. But it would have been nice if we could have talked about it, instead of spending lots of time in this (in my mind) fruitless effort to justify generalization about Christians as a whole. Maybe we could keep in mind that atheists don't even have to generalize about Christians as a whole to criticize Christianity effectively. All they have to do is discuss central, agreed-upon points of Christian doctrine and show why those central doctrines are either false or harmful. Why aren't atheists doing that? It would make for a better conversation, I think.

And it would be more honest. Again, maybe I'm making unwarranted assumptions, but I was under the impression that atheists don't simply believe that Christians happen or even tend to be hateful; I thought atheists believed that Christianity itself, its central beliefs, are themselves hate-filled and harmful. Am I wrong about that?
posted by koeselitz at 2:57 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


jtron: Thank you.

EC: The problem here is that you're crying foul on perfectly accurate statements on the grounds that they're not inclusive of every single Christian. This makes it impossible to, focusing on topic, to say much of anything about the ideas that Hirschfield addresses, the ideas that are at stake in the attacks on Bell and the dismissal of Holtz.

"Not all Christians believe that," isn't a rebuttal to Hirschfield and others in the thread who are talking about specific doctrines and their political implications. It's an evasion and derail. It's also frustrating to get attacked for making the exact same criticisms that are routinely entertained by religious liberals. So there is a definite "do as I say, not as I do" thing going on here.

You want criticism of Christianity to be honest. Fair enough. I want for it to be understood that criticism of specific doctrines such as Creationism, Hell, Heterosexism, and Transubstantiation, says nothing about the people and sects who don't agree with those doctrines.

And there's more than a little bit of privilege going on here. Christian Heterosexism isn't an inaccuracy. It's an ideology that has shattered families, been passed into law, spent millions of church dollars to swing elections, sundered people from their community, and has cost people I respect their jobs, some of them as ministers. If someone is angry about Christian Heterosexism, it's usually for a damned good reason. Beanplating statistical estimates doesn't make it go away.

"If it's not about you, don't make it about you." It's a hard lesson to learn about an being ally and I know it's fucking hard to zip my lip and sit on my hands when I'm listening to fast and furious gripes about sexism and racism. And sometimes it feels like a personal attack even when I'm in full agreement with what's being said. But I try to shut the fuck up anyway because it's the right thing to do.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:11 PM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


KirkJobSluder: “You want criticism of Christianity to be honest. Fair enough. I want for it to be understood that criticism of specific doctrines such as Creationism, Hell, Heterosexism, and Transubstantiation, says nothing about the people and sects who don't agree with those doctrines.”

That would have bearing if somebody somewhere, in this thread or the thread we're talking about, had actually criticized any specific doctrines. As far as I can tell, no one has made any such arguments. Maybe I'm completely wrong here; if so, you can disabuse me of that notion and I'll be happy. However, the last time I saw an actual criticism of a belief, rather than an attempt to generalize about a group of people, it was in the linked article that started all this.
posted by koeselitz at 3:22 PM on March 30, 2011


Kirk, you say "if it's not about you, don't make it about you".

Well, homophobia isn't "about me" either, because I'm not gay. Should I butt out of that as well?

The problem here is that you're crying foul on perfectly accurate statements on the grounds that they're not inclusive of every single Christian. This makes it impossible to, focusing on topic, to say much of anything about the ideas that Hirschfield addresses, the ideas that are at stake in the attacks on Bell and the dismissal of Holtz.

Can you give me an example of where I have specifically done that?

You want criticism of Christianity to be honest. Fair enough. I want for it to be understood that criticism of specific doctrines such as Creationism, Hell, Heterosexism, and Transubstantiation, says nothing about the people and sects who don't agree with those doctrines.

I have no problem with that. What I DO have a problem with is stuff like what dirty damn ape was pulling, though. And I was trying like HELL not to drop that name again, because it's FAR past time that that thread should be dropped, but HIS line of talks was what I was referring to, not every single critique of Christianity ever ever ever.

Including yours. I was talking expressly about him. And -- as someone wise said -- "if it's not about you, don't make it about you."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:23 PM on March 30, 2011


koeselitz,

Other people: "Being religious is pretty much the same as believing in hell, and tends to make you hate gay people, people of other races, and humans in general."

I don't think that's a fair characterization. I'm the one who was talking about Christians and bringing statistics and my point was to refute EmpressCallipygos's assertions that it's just a fanatical minority of Christians who are homophobic. In fact, it's a majority (my evidence was that half of Catholics and two-thirds of Protestants oppose gay marriage.)

The point was that, contrary to what EmpressCallipygos wanted us to believe, that this is not an academic exercise, and that it does have major, real-world effects. Also, while I recognize that liberal Christians can be helpful allies in a pragmatic sense, their identification as Christians lends strength to Christianity as a political and social power, and, as previously demonstrated, a majority of Christians are homophobic. (Homophobia standing in as a relatively quantifiable representation of the ills that Christianity can bring.)

That was a derail from my original argument, which was in fact directly on point. It addressed a line in the rabbi's piece: "It strikes me as arrogant to imagine that when we are done in this life, there is nothing that comes after." I took issue with that and then EmpressCallipygos brought in the now-dropped 21 grams argument and the train went thattaway.

I was under the impression that atheists don't simply believe that Christians happen or even tend to be hateful; I thought atheists believed that Christianity itself, its central beliefs, are themselves hate-filled and harmful. Am I wrong about that?

Atheists do not believe in God. There is no doctrine or shared set of beliefs. Personally, I think it's obvious that certain central beliefs of many denominations of Christianity are themselves hate-filled and harmful. For example, the Catholic Church categorically denounces abortion and homosexuality, while literalist Protestant groups (and Orthodox Jews) maintain that the verses in Leviticus come directly from God. You then point out that some liberal Christians don't believe those things, and then I respond that a majority do, and that it's not some kind of coincidence. 48% of Catholic Americans support gay marriage not because of Catholicism but in spite of it, in my opinion. The church, the hierarchy, and the Bible all conspire to insist that homosexuality is ipso facto sinful, and it's only the osmosis from modern humanism that convinces them otherwise. (Compare Catholics in in Latin America and Africa to see this point.)
posted by callmejay at 3:50 PM on March 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm the one who was talking about Christians and bringing statistics and my point was to refute EmpressCallipygos's assertions that it's just a fanatical minority of Christians who are homophobic.

Please link me to the exact place where I said "a fanatical minority of Christians are homophobic".

The point was that, contrary to what EmpressCallipygos wanted us to believe, that this is not an academic exercise, and that it does have major, real-world effects.

Please link me to where I said that "this is purely an academic exercise."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:58 PM on March 30, 2011


Please link me to the exact place where I said "a fanatical minority of Christians are homophobic".

Not a direct, quote obviously, but it was a response to this: "I'm with you for the most part, save for a disagreement about the percentages of people who believe "religion's been good for me" vs. "religion's been an excuse to be a dick." I've found the "dick" percentage to be smaller (but much more vocal)." You said "smaller" but in reality it's "a majority."

Please link me to where I said that "this is purely an academic exercise."

You wrote things like "There's a difference between "what an individual believes in the afterlife" and "whether an individual uses hir own beliefs as an excuse to be a dick to others."" Obviously true, but I think the implication is that what people believe is therefore less relevant. My point was that beliefs inform actions.
posted by callmejay at 4:04 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


And to stave off the accusation I just KNOW is coming -- I'm not asking you to link to where I said things because I'm all "hah, I never said that." I'm asking you because I have by now forgotten THE BLOODY CONTEXT for those statements.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:05 PM on March 30, 2011


Not a direct, quote obviously, but it was a response to this: "I'm with you for the most part, save for a disagreement about the percentages of people who believe "religion's been good for me" vs. "religion's been an excuse to be a dick." I've found the "dick" percentage to be smaller (but much more vocal)." You said "smaller" but in reality it's "a majority."

Okay, but -- can you explain how we got from "an excuse to be a dick" to "supports/opposes gay marriage"? Because that actually wasn't what I was referring to by "being a dick".

And one thing I didn't see in the article is how the people who oppose gay marriage ACT on that belief. It's very possible someone could be opposed to gay marriage, but also decide that it ain't any of their business anyway, so they just kind of are throwing up their hands and changing the channel. Just like there are people who are opposed to abortion, but also believe that that is something the government shouldn't legislate. These people don't think abortion is moral, so they just don't get one themselves and let others do what THEY want (maybe comforting themselves with the thought that "maybe they'll repent someday"). Similarly, there may be people who are opposed to gay marriage, but they just decide to not take part in any vote on the topic.

On the other hand, by "being a dick" I was referring to aggressive proselytizing, Dominionist political action, and open insults. I was referring to Fred Phelps and Pat Robertson.

It's possible that a majority of people are uncomfortable with gay marriage (although, in the thread on the blue there is a statistic to counter that now) -- but are you saying you believe that the MAJORITY of Christians are like Fred Phelps and Pat Robertson?

THAT'S what I meant.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:12 PM on March 30, 2011


callmejay: “The point was that, contrary to what EmpressCallipygos wanted us to believe, that this is not an academic exercise, and that it does have major, real-world effects.”

The "effects" part is the problem. You can't show "effects" with statistics.
posted by koeselitz at 4:18 PM on March 30, 2011


Okay, but -- can you explain how we got from "an excuse to be a dick" to "supports/opposes gay marriage"? Because that actually wasn't what I was referring to by "being a dick".

I was using "opposes gay marriage" simply because it's easy to find data on the subject. There's no easy way to find out how many use open insults or proselytize aggressively that I know of. Of course I'm not saying a majority of Christians are like Phelps and Robertson, but a majority are clearly homophobic, and I think that's bad enough.
posted by callmejay at 4:19 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


The "effects" part is the problem. You can't show "effects" with statistics.

The two of you want to make sure that no aspect of religiosity can be viewed through an empirical lens, huh? Very convenient to take stances that are by their very nature falsifiable.

"Opposing gay marriage" is an effect, as long as it translates to political action. I could go dig up some statistics on how gay marriage essentially swayed the 2004 election if you'd like, but I doubt you'd find that relevant either.

Other effects are teen suicides, depression, anxiety, bullying, etc. Even if one doesn't vote their homophobic beliefs, they generally teach them to their children, who act as if gay relationships and gay people are inferior to straight ones.

And that's just homosexuality. Another insidious effect is this immunity to empiricism -- the idea that there's this thing called "faith" that is an adequate substitute. In contributes to what Stephen Colbert (I know, I know, he's religious) calls "truthiness" and to so much of what's wrong with America today. Global warming is a myth, see, because empiricism has its limits and what do those atheist scientists know, anyway? Stem cell research is bad because I feel (and my church teaches) that zygotes are babies. This war is good because they are a different religion. And on and on.
posted by callmejay at 4:25 PM on March 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


"that are by their very nature falsifiable." I mean UNfalsifiable.
posted by callmejay at 4:25 PM on March 30, 2011


The leader of my country is an atheist.

Other effects are teen suicides, depression, anxiety, bullying, etc

my atheism has, in my opinion, contributed to my depression.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:29 PM on March 30, 2011


That sucks. :-( I have nothing smart to say about that.
posted by callmejay at 4:50 PM on March 30, 2011


callmejay: “The two of you want to make sure that no aspect of religiosity can be viewed through an empirical lens, huh? Very convenient to take stances that are by their very nature falsifiable.”

No aspect of religiousity has yet even been discussed. That's what I'm trying to get to. Let me be clear: I agree that these are very important things; and I agree that the real-world harm and damage we're talking about is a terrible thing that we have a duty to try to mitigate. That's why I want to actually talk about that damage, and what is causing that damage, without hand-waving or vagueness.

“‘Opposing gay marriage’ is an effect, as long as it translates to political action. I could go dig up some statistics on how gay marriage essentially swayed the 2004 election if you'd like, but I doubt you'd find that relevant either. ”

Okay. And that's something we can talk about. Opposition to gay marriage is a problem. You say that it's an effect. My question is: an effect of what? Be specific. That's all I'm trying to do: get to the specific causes here. "Religiosity" is not an answer to that question; at least, it's not an answer that's specific enough to be meaningful or to be helpful to people like you and me who want to fix these problems.

The same thing is true of the other things you mention. We have to talk about the things of which they are actually an effect. If we can say: "they're an effect of the Christian doctrine of X," then we can talk about that, talk about whether that doctrine can effectively be excluded in the minds of Christians or changed, or whether we have the correct understanding of that doctrine (which in some ways amounts to the same thing.)
posted by koeselitz at 5:46 PM on March 30, 2011


EC: You know that's the second time (that I can see) you've insulted callmejay by asking him to stand for an obviously ludicrous position?

Fuck you. Not all Christians are homophobes but you're certainly engaged in some obvious heterosexism yourself.

Christian hetrosexism is a prejudicial doctrine held by large numbers of American Christians. (Only 40% of American Catholics favor full marriage, and yes, that distinction matters.) It's not Robertson and Phelps that bothers me, it's the millions of nice, quiet, passive heterosexists who Republicans pander to with fear and Democrats fear to offend. It's these people who will, perhaps not consciously, support pervasive discrimination, harassment, and violence. If they don't engage in it, they don't stick their neck out.

It's not just a sentiment silently shared among millions of people, it's the official doctrine of three of the largest communions in the United States, limiting what can be said, advocated, and taught within their halls.

And then there's you. Rather than saying, "yep, that's a problem," you've denied, claimed personal offense, claimed unfair generalization over a statistical claim, accused participants of prejudice in contradiction to their statements, made unreasonable demands of any claims made about Christians, and insisted we talk about a nonsense "smal-f fundamentalism." I certainly don't think you want for gay people to suffer, but you're doing your fucking best to make certain that any discussion of Christian heterosexism is hamstrung with abundant disclaimers that we're not implicating you personally.

Which reminds me of why MLK called the white moderate more frustrating than the KKK. The KKK at least is an obvious threat, while the white moderate repeatedly blocked progress in the name of the illusion of peace and civility.

Your constant denials are cowardly, self-serving, and completely unnecessary, as I've yet to hear any other gay-positive Christian, including about a half-dozen ministers, refuse to take responsibility for the fact that Christian heterosexism is a big fucking problem that needs to be openly addressed and critiqued.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:49 PM on March 30, 2011 [8 favorites]



Well, except for this guy, one of the longest-serving members of the US Congress and admitted atheist.


He didn't come out publicly until three and a half decades after he was first elected.

The leader of my country is an atheist.

The leader of mine is a liberal who opposes gay marriage because of his religion. Damn that small minority.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:00 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh good furiousxgeorge is here to try to make a conversation all about Obama again. Can Joe Beese be far behind?
posted by dersins at 6:02 PM on March 30, 2011


Let's talk about furiousxgeorge instead.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:05 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alas, The Beesemaster is vanquished.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:06 PM on March 30, 2011


Stay classy KirkJobSluder.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:09 PM on March 30, 2011


koeselitz: That's why I want to actually talk about that damage, and what is causing that damage, without hand-waving or vagueness.

Ok.
1: Christian heterosexism is a doctrine held informally by many Christians and formally by at least three of the largest congregations in the United States.
2: This doctrine supports a psychological bias against LGBT people.
3: This bias is expressed in a range of behavior from tacit discrimination and reluctance to act on gay-rights issues to violence.
4: These behaviors harm LGBT people in a variety of ways, including internalized homophobia, personal and institutional discrimination, legal discrimination, harassment, and violence.

The limits of what I can competently deal with are areas 2-4. The best way to deal with bias is personal contact. I can challenge anti-gay behaviors in various forms. We can document the negative effects of anti-gay bias on LGBT people.

But I can't make a convincing argument that same-sex relationships are sanctified by God. That's up to Christians in their congregations.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:25 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fuck you. Not all Christians are homophobes but you're certainly engaged in some obvious heterosexism yourself.

Unless you can illustrate how I've "engaged in obvious heterosexism", I'll thank you not to make assumptions about what I do or don't believe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:51 PM on March 30, 2011


I think you misunderstand his point, EC, which is pretty understandable when it opens with "Fuck you." He's not making any statements about what you believe, per se, but is making a statement that your behaviour (allegedly trying to minimize all claims of a relationship between heterosexism and christianity, if I've understood him correctly) is itself harmful.
posted by neuromodulator at 6:56 PM on March 30, 2011


To put it another way: one can hold beliefs which could be characterized as "strongly anti-heterosexist" by the holder but the assertion that "nor does my organization doesn't have a problem with heterosexism" can still be highly problematic.

I haven't followed the thread closely enough to have any opinion on whether or not that's what you're doing, and I don't mean to imply by clarifying his accusation that I support it. I do support the notion that such behaviour is problematic; I'm just not clear if its your behaviour.
posted by neuromodulator at 7:02 PM on March 30, 2011


D'oh. Too many edits lead to illegible sentences. "nor does my organization have a problem with heterosexism".
posted by neuromodulator at 7:03 PM on March 30, 2011


The leader of my country is an atheist.

The leader of mine is a liberal who opposes gay marriage because of his religion.


If by "leader of my country" we mean the US, Barack Obama was a member of the United Church of Christ and was raised Universalist. The UCC does in fact perform gay marriages. The Universalists have since merged with the Unitarians to form the Unitarian-Universalist Association, which also performs gay marriages.

If Obama is opposed to gay marriage, it's not because of his religious background.

(I'm nominally Unitarian-Universalist. We do conduct gay marriages. People who are married in them consider themselves married, and are considered married by other members of the congregation, even though my state doesn't recognize it.)
posted by nangar at 7:08 PM on March 30, 2011


I can only tell you what Obama has said about himself.

"I do not support gay marriage. Marriage has religious and social connotations, and I consider marriage to be between a man and a woman."

"This is an issue that I think helps to describe who we are...[Marriage] connotes to so many people a religious and not just civil element, and that includes me."

posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:22 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's not making any statements about what you believe, per se, but is making a statement that your behaviour (allegedly trying to minimize all claims of a relationship between heterosexism and christianity, if I've understood him correctly) is itself harmful.

Well, as you said, if he'd just said THAT and not opened with "Fuck You"....

And even there, that's still not quite my point. My point isn't "there is no connection between heterosexism and Christianity". My point is "just because someone is Christian, it may not be accurate to assume that 'therefore, that person MUST also be heterosexist'".

Others are assuming I'm focusing on statistics and motives. But I've always been focusing on INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIANS. callmejay earlier admitted that a given percentage of Catholics supported gay marriage "in spite of the church".

If that's the case, might it JUST BE POSSIBLE that if you meet a person who says they're Christian, that therefore, there just MAYBE is a chance that THAT PERSON is NOT homophobic?

And if that too is the case, then isn't it ALSO maybe possible that saying "Christians are intellectually bankrupt because Christianity always causes homophobia!" would piss off that person?

And if that is the case, then isn't it also possible that a more nuanced statement -- something like, oh, "the hard language in Scripture has fostered a tradition of homophobia" - would piss off less people?

And finally -- if you have less chance of pissing off people, isn't it also possible we could finally have actual DISCUSSIONS about religion on the blue?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:23 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


because empiricism has its limits and what do those atheist scientists know, anyway?

Not to get into everything else here, but empiricism does have it's limits, and no one knows that more than most scientists.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:29 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's part of the problem, some see individuals, some see a single group. It happens a lot.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:30 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


KirkJobSluder: “Fuck you. Not all Christians are homophobes but you're certainly engaged in some obvious heterosexism yourself.”

Do we really toss around the "fuck you" thing here? Is that something you really want to do, Kirk? And strident accusations that are totally baseless?

If nobody else will argue this with you, I will, at the risk of justifying crudity and insults, make this point: EmpressCallipygos has done no such thing. Not in any way. You're way off base.

You want to know what doctrine causes lots of terrible things in this country? And lots of other countries? Aggressiveness and baseless insults. I haven't seen any heterosexism in this thread. What I have seen is aggressiveness and baseless insults.
posted by koeselitz at 7:30 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd also add that Jeremiah Wright is a good example of where Obama comes from on this. He believes in gay marriage but just doesn't see it as a priority.

“Are 44 million Americans with no health care insurance less important than ‘gay marriage?’ Why aren’t Black Christians in an uproar about that? Maybe I am missing something!”


So, you can argue that Obama is just being pragmatic in refusing to stand up for gay marriage amd cynically using his religion as a shield. However, this still leaves us with a critique of what EC has been saying.

The fundamentalist position finds fertile ground even among members of liberal churches, it's a major problem with vast influence no matter how we peg the exact numbers of adherents.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:31 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's also worth noting that Christian heterosexism isn't necessarily "stone the queer." The United Methodist Church for example is supportive of anti-discrimination law and LGBT members, but only affirms heterosexual marriage and has an explicit prohibition on LGBT people as ministers. I have a slightly personal relationship because it's my original community going back 22 years, so I've seen bitter fights trying to change this and ministers attempting to dance around orders not to celebrate same-sex unions.

EC: Unless you can illustrate how I've "engaged in obvious heterosexism", I'll thank you not to make assumptions about what I do or don't believe.

I didn't make any assumptions about what you believe. (Not that you've ever refrained from such speculation.) I have no idea what you believe. I've documented what you've done. And so I ask you, how does repeatedly denying, minimizing, trivializing, and taking knee-jerk offense at criticisms of heterosexism in American Christianity, work in the best interests of the people who've been fighting that problem for decades?

I know people who have been shunned, who've flirted with dismissal from their ministerial positions, who've been forced to change their religious communities, who've mourned the perpetual conference fight, and the people who celebrate the wins. I know people who stood up as religious leaders to back me, only to face censure for doing private non-weddings in a backyard.

Those are the Christians I respect. They've confronted heterosexism in scripture, their community, their organizations, and themselves. And they were not remotely defensive about talking about it.

Pissing about how many "ACT" on a prejudice and how many are like Phelps? Trying to silence any criticism that you might interpret as a slur on all Christians? That's cowardice. That's a big honking chip on your shoulder. That's heterosexism.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:35 PM on March 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Five hundred or so comments in and we've reached one conclusion. Obama is the devil and regardless of religion, all those who voted for him are going to hell.
posted by gman at 7:36 PM on March 30, 2011


Kirk, I'll just direct you to what I've said here.

You also claim to be basing your accusations on my actions. I do not recall telling you of any of my off-Mefi actions, so I'm not certain to what you are referring.

And I'll leave the irony of having the person who told me to go fuck myself accuse ME of having a chip on MY shoulder, to others in the thread.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:41 PM on March 30, 2011


My criticism of Christianity is that it has produced a huge number of self-avowed Christians who don't do jack shit for gay people, poor people, sex workers, immigrants, or oppressed people in general. As a religion it is overly focused on belief as a method of salvation, which is bigoted and unfair to people who happen to be born in, say, Russia.

Don't tell me that not all Christians are like that. I KNOW THAT. Once again, I used to be a quaker. I'm married to UU. My best friend is a seminarian. I went to 4 years of parochial school and was raised in one of the "good" protestant churches. I know the difference between the ELCA and the Missouri Synod. Okay? Good enough?
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:54 PM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


EC: Well, as you said, if he'd just said THAT and not opened with "Fuck You"....

Fuck you is a polite response here. You've spent how many posts beating a dead horse that everyone agrees with to deflect the issue? You've openly insulted callmejay twice without a real apology. And you're still doing it.

EC: If that's the case, might it JUST BE POSSIBLE that if you meet a person who says they're Christian, that therefore, there just MAYBE is a chance that THAT PERSON is NOT homophobic?

No shit Sherlock! Yes, everyone knows there are non-homophobic Christians. Devoting two whole threads to demands we coddle you for fear of giving offense? That's straight-up heterosexsm.

You want a clue? The honestly gay-positive people of faith:
1: Understand that their religion is heterosexist.
2: Don't take criticism of their religion personally.
3: Don't get defensive in the face of anger to the point of derailing the discussion.

That's what being an ally means.

EC: And if that is the case, then isn't it also possible that a more nuanced statement -- something like, oh, "the hard language in Scripture has fostered a tradition of homophobia" - would piss off less people?

Sure, but by the standards you've set out, it would probably piss off you and we're back in the same soup.

koeselitz: I've done a fair job documenting this. But let's make it clear, EC has done a great deal of going on the offensive by:
1: Repeatedly taking personal offense to general statements about many but not all Christians.
2: Consistently attempted to deny and deflect the issue.
3: Personally insulting multiple participants in this discussion by making patently unfair statements about their beliefs.
4: Given false apologies when called on bad claims. ("I'm sorry you misunderstood," rather than, "I apologize for implying that you're a bigot.")

At some point, it's time to say enough is enough to passive-aggresive bullshit that's blocking discussion of an important issue.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:54 PM on March 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ah and it is heterosexist, and the focus on belief is, in my opinion, a huge reason why Christians IN GENERAL feel so complacent about doing a whole lot of nothing positive.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:56 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


EC, it's apparent from the timing (and, frankly, the tone) that you never actually read all of Nattie's incredible, thoughtful comment above. I can't be alone in wishing that you could take a break from aggrievedly answering every single comment and just read it carefully an with an open mind (note that this is not an invitation to respond to it point by point!). It is just as fantastic and insightful as her feminism comment, and I'm surprised to see so few people engage it, because she has made some extremely compelling arguments in a very clear, non-confrontational way. Instead, I fear this thread will continue to be about you and the minutiae of the ways that you feel misunderstood or threatened by people pointing out your privilege.

Honestly, though, I am surprised that people who are usually so on top of calling out privilege are so resistant to recognizing theistic privilege at all. To me, the claim that different subsets of Christianity are not privileged just because there's not a Quaker senator, or that things can be terrible for Muslim people too, is very similar to the claim I see often on reddit et al. that a nerdy/goth/effeminate male doesn't really benefit from male privilege just because more typically masculine males (like jocks) benefit from it a lot more.

It is clear to me, at least, that liberal Christian denominations are privileged even though they are in the minority among Christians. Hiring is one example - have you ever been asked what church you go to in a job interview? It's illegal, but so is gender discrimination in hiring, and we all know how effectively these laws are enforced. Saying I went to the Unitarian church likely would have gotten me the job, but saying "I don't go to church" did not. I don't feel that I should be required to lie in a job interview, just like I don't believe that LGBTQ people shouldn't have to lie in a job interview. That is just one example of the privilege that Christians in America enjoy (and no, it doesn't make it less of a privilege if they wouldn't be satisfied by the Unitarian church, either - see nerd/jock analogy above).
posted by dialetheia at 7:57 PM on March 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


My criticism of Christianity is that it has produced a huge number of self-avowed Christians who don't do jack shit for gay people, poor people, sex workers, immigrants, or oppressed people in general.

You know, you could substitute literally hundreds of nouns for "Christianity" there, and you'd have the same intact sentence. Business schools, Miners' Guilds, birdwatching societies....
posted by Burhanistan at 7:57 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's nice. I'm talking about Christianity now.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:59 PM on March 30, 2011


Don't get me started on fucking birdwatching societies, man. We've got enough in this thread already.
posted by neuromodulator at 8:19 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll thank you not to make assumptions about what I do or don't believe.

It's not about what you believe. You clearly hold all the most politically correct beliefs, and are care about all the oppressed of the Earth. As you eagerly tell us.

But you're also willing to maintain communion with, and excuse, and apologize for, institutions -- like the Roman Catholic Church and the US Conference of (RC) Bishops -- which use their great influence to keep gays civilly inferior, poltically not quite as human as the rest of us.

And part of their great influence is their claim -- which you validate -- that they speak for millions of co-religionists. Including you.

You speak for progress, for equality, but you aid and apologize for active opponents of progress.

I asked you to listen to Phil Ochs complaint about the "Liberal", the parlour pink who is for protest only so long as it's theoretical -- but never now!, an integrationist as long as blacks don't move into her own neighborhood, who is all for change so long as the status quo is never disturbed.

KirkJobSluder alluded to MLK's frustration with the white moderate. See if any of this rings a bell:
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

[....]

I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
posted by orthogonality at 8:27 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


EC, it's apparent from the timing (and, frankly, the tone) that you never actually read all of Nattie's incredible, thoughtful comment above...

You know what? Fuck this.

If people in here are so insistent on making up stuff that they think I believe, in leaping to conclusions about what I did and didn't say, what I do and don't do, even what I did and didn't READ, I'm just going to drop out of the site altogether for awhile and get out of their way and make it easier for them.

If you're so determined to slag me, go ahead and do it. But I'm sure as FUCK not going to stick around to read it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 PM on March 30, 2011


generalist wrote "Threads about Christianity usually include atheists who clearly know zero about theology, or for that matter anything aside from a cartoon version of contemporary Christianity, informing the thoughtful, tolerant Christians of metafilter that their beliefs are not what they think they are, that they are in fact supporters of a hateful, violent ideology dead-set on casting sinners into the fiery pit."

Feel free to disagree with me, but in my personal experience your average atheist knows a hell of a lot more about Christian theology than your average American Christian (and I know, not all Christians are bible-thumpers but you have to admit that the Christian voices of tolerance and compassion ca. 2011 are quite puny compared to your mega-church gay-bashing muslim-hating ones).

I mean, where do you think atheists come from? Usually they're former theists and/or Christians like myself who aren't religious scholars but have actually read the entire Bible and tried to make sense of it and engaged with it critically. That whole part about accepting Jesus as the messiah as the one true way to salvation, and those who don't suffer (in hell according to most Christians)? Yeah, that's some stupid bullshit right there. (I could give you the longer version but hey, what do I know -- atheists can't possibly have anything intelligent about the Bible unlike, say, the God Hates Fags crowd.)
posted by bardic at 8:45 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Feel free to disagree with me, but in my personal experience your average atheist knows a hell of a lot more about Christian theology than your average American Christian (and I know, not all Christians are bible-thumpers but you have to admit that the Christian voices of tolerance and compassion ca. 2011 are quite puny compared to your mega-church gay-bashing muslim-hating ones).


You know, you might be right. I just wish these incredibly knowledge atheists came in, were able to entertain a thought without accepting it, and were hoping to both allow their knowledge to be added to the group and others' knowledge to be added to theirs. I wish the theists also did this.

And yes, I agree: assuming that atheists know nothing of the Bible makes as much sense as assuming that theists are brain-dead because any half-way smart person who read the Bible would be an atheist. Both assume that anyone who knows what we do would think like we do.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:49 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


EC: How do you respond to the claim that only heterosexual marriage was sanctified by God as described in Genesis? How do you argue for a sacrament of same-sex marriage? What is your view on the doctrine that LGBT people should be embraced by the Church but homosexuality should not be encouraged? Which national groups is your Church a member of, and what are their policies? What action is going on to change those policies to be more inclusive? How is your Church active in current political fights?

Any one of these would be more current, more interesting, more important than your pathetic attempt to rewrite a study about opposition to same sex marriage into something else. What else? I can't figure it out.

I'm tired, I'm pissed off. You've spent two whole threads getting your hackles raised over trivia. You've been completely unfair and insulting to both callmejay and orthogonality. You've assumed the worst of everyone else in the discussion, and then demanded the privilege of assuming the worst. You've not issued an authentic apology for anything, only apologized that you were not more adept in your passive-aggresive accusing everyone else of bigotry.

Then there's a poll, which finds that 60% of American Catholics don't favor full equality, and the numbers are even worse for other religious groups. Sure, a majority favor civil unions, but that's not what's going to be on the Indiana ballot in 2 years, or on the desk of the Supreme Court perhaps in the next year. It's marriage that drives most legal actions, not unions.

I'm looking at data which says to me that if marriage goes to a popular vote, we'll probably loose, and there's no way to spin this into something positive.

But you try to do it anyway to beat a dead horse that there are gay-positive Christians. You imply that only people like Phelps and Robertson are relevant. You're trivializing a huge problem to flog a dead issue which should have been assumed from the start. Of course not all Christians believe the same things. Is there any doubt about it?

I got angry. I fully apologize for "fuck you." I apologize for writing that you have a chip on your shoulder. I should have just let it go.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:05 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Alas, The Beesemaster is vanquished.

really? I liked him

and i think the problem is judging 'Christians' as if they're some massive, monolithic group. you gotta figure any Christian on here is pretty intelligent and tolerant. it's like... there are DJs here. electronica and techno DJs. i figure 'cause they're at MeFi i can give them the benefit of the doubt that they're contributing something good to the world. there were Christians fighting for civil rights. my aunt - a Catholic nun - encouraged me to go to gay Mardi Gras. i know all sorts who have opposing views. yeah, the Church itself has a whole bunch of messed up views. but which church? Catholic doctrine is pro-evolution and anti-death penalty. etc

guys like Slacktavist are part of the solution. he's done more to help the world than my angry atheist friends.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:12 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


"That's what being an ally means. "

A real friend would let me smear shit all over her!
posted by klangklangston at 10:24 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


even what I did and didn't READ

For the record, I said that you probably didn't read the whole comment simply because Nattie posted her 5,339-word comment at 4:37 am, and you had already responded by 4:48 am, huffily accusing her of misunderstanding you - as if you and your opinions are the only thing she could possibly have been addressing in her extremely thoughtful, not at all confrontational post. I didn't intend to slag you, only to point out (if a bit icily) that these two threads have both been all about you, you, you, primarily because you can't seem to allow anyone to say anything negative about Christianity AT ALL (or even so much as mention their own atheist beliefs) without taking it as a direct, personal affront.

I was under the impression that atheists don't simply believe that Christians happen or even tend to be hateful; I thought atheists believed that Christianity itself, its central beliefs, are themselves hate-filled and harmful. Am I wrong about that?

Yes, you are really, really, really wrong about that. Atheism doesn't mean believing in any particular thing, it means NOT believing in god, and that's all. I was raised without any religion, so maybe I'm lacking the zeal of the converted, but I don't really have any strong opinions on Christianity. Really, I just don't care. The only thing is, I do dislike the way that I am treated (here and elsewhere) by Christians just for being an atheist, in pretty much exactly the ways that Nattie described.

It's funny to me that people have accused atheists of always being misinformed about Christianity, and yet people have made tons of utterly baseless assertions about atheists here in these threads - that they hate Christianity, they never want to think about anything that can't be proved empirically, they are ignorant about religion, they have no sense of the sublime, they are a bunch of strident assholes, etc. Really, all atheists have in common is that they believe in one less god than you do. That is all.

Honestly, I see the idea that "atheists hate Christians" as very similar to the idea that "feminists hate men." Feminists don't hate men, but that certainly doesn't mean they can't point out when men are doing things that are problematic. To me, it's the same thing with atheism - I don't have anything against Christianity, but I think it's very important to be able to point out when there are problems that are caused or enabled by those various flavors of Christianity (e.g. Leviticus & gay marriage, Catholic priest child molestation, etc), and that the amount of defensiveness displayed by otherwise progressive adherents to the faith is itself problematic when it enables the continuance of these policies.
posted by dialetheia at 10:32 PM on March 30, 2011 [13 favorites]

So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Par from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ecclesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.

I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham, and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom.
Some Christian preacher said that.
posted by orthogonality at 11:07 PM on March 30, 2011


This has been one of the most depressing threads I've been part of in a long time. Maybe next time it will be better; I don't know. I sure hope so. In the mean time, I'm done with this topic and thread, folks. Good luck with it.
posted by koeselitz at 11:19 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I thought atheists believed that Christianity itself, its central beliefs, are themselves hate-filled and harmful."

Well, you could argue that a strong-atheist position such as Dawkins or Hitchens thinks this is true, but they are just as scornful and mocking of notions like Valhalla or a place in the sky where Allah gives you dozens of virgins to deflower or putting a corpse up high in a tree so that the birds eat you and get you into heaven faster (although Zoroastrianism is rather rad in other ways).

But in general, no. A-theism. It's not a belief in anything, but a position of not believing in what other religious people take on faith.
posted by bardic at 11:32 PM on March 30, 2011


"Maybe next time it will be better"

Ye of little faith.
posted by bardic at 11:33 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't followed this whole thread, nor even looked at the thread in the blue that spawned it. But to see shit going down surrounding a 5,345 word (9 pages, single spaced, Times New Roman 12 point) comment that some did (or didn't) read just feels all kinds of wrong. It may indeed be a masterpiece. It might be right up there with the Gettysburg Address or the Sermon on the Mount. But in the context of this site and how many of us use it, it's fundamentally problematic. And given the morale at this point in the thread, I'm thinking I'm not the only one who feels this way.
posted by philip-random at 11:43 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


"But in the context of this site and how many of us use it, it's fundamentally problematic."

How so?
posted by bardic at 11:46 PM on March 30, 2011


'Cause everyone went "woah" and scrolled on past.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:57 PM on March 30, 2011


Because in a community of umpteen thousand active members every one of whom is allowed/encouraged to engage in discussion, you don't get to just throw down 9 pages of required reading. I'm not questioning Nattie's prerogative here to post her thoughts as she sees fit. I am refusing to feel I MUST read them in order to stay in the discussion.
posted by philip-random at 12:09 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


... speaking hypothetically, of course, as I wasn't really in the discussion, just checking in every now and then. I'm already firm in my belief that all religion is basically a beanstalk. Isn't it?
posted by philip-random at 12:13 AM on March 31, 2011


'Cause everyone went "woah" and scrolled on past.

Thing is, dudes, if you skipped Nattie's comment, you're missing out, because it's calm, it's reasoned, it's insightful, and it's the best comment in this thread.
posted by orthogonality at 12:19 AM on March 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


But in the context of this site and how many of us use it, it's fundamentally problematic. And given the morale at this point in the thread, I'm thinking I'm not the only one who feels this way.

I just feel that if we're going to have this discussion, we should engage each other's arguments in good faith. EC immediately replied defensively and implicitly accused Nattie of saying all sorts of things that she explicitly said she wasn't saying. I really don't want to rehash the whole conversation, I just thought that revisiting Nattie's thoughtful and even-handed comment might help EC to understand where atheists are coming from in this conversation, and honestly I really resented the way she just immediately dismissed all of those very carefully-put and heartfelt arguments. Since (IMHO) Nattie's was by far the best comment in the thread, it was especially depressing to see the conversation instantly turn back to petty bickering. I am not saying that everyone needs to go read it RIGHT NOW or they are a bad person, only that if you are going to respond directly to a post, that yes, you probably ought to read it first.

Philip_random, you are absolutely free to read whatever you like without any judgment from me, and I am free to share my opinion that her comment was wonderful and well worth the time it takes to read. I am now dropping this issue because it is totally not what I intended to get caught up in, I only wanted to draw more attention to Nattie's comment since it seemed to have been lost in the ensuing clusterfuck and I thought it might help people understand the reasons that these discussions always go so badly (or even better, help us short-circuit these ridiculous argument-cycles based on misunderstandings and assuming the worst about others).

Also: I think the morale was ruined about 300 comments ago.
posted by dialetheia at 12:37 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess where I'm at with it all is:

A. I will read Nattie's comment as it comes very well recommended.

B. But I still think the way to go with 5000+ word comment is post it to your personal blog and, hopefully, it will draw someone at MeFi's attention and it will thus get the focused treatment it deserves.

Time for bed.
posted by philip-random at 1:09 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


All I know is that this thread is chock fucking full of hate. And, ironically (only ironic given their supposed arguments), every single little bit of hate I've seen in this thread has come from non-theists. Does that say anything about the balance of hate in the world at large? Not at all. Not by a long shot. But it does speak volumes about the participants in this particular conversation.
posted by dersins at 2:00 AM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


The sadly funny part is that Kirk and EC are on the same side.

Kirk, you've been a complete and utter mean spirited jackass in this thread. Your behavior and comments have been laced with a willful arrogance coupled a seeming desire to use EC's statements as an excuse to unload your own baggage in a fashion that mirrors the very thing you claim to be against.

Knock it off. EC was far from perfect in this thread, but it's clear her intentions were not to abuse or belittle anyone, merely offer a different view on those who believe. That doesn't give you the right to unload a 12 gauge shitgun on her when she hasn't done anything to you, then turn around and attempt to pistol whip her statements with the blunt end of Quit Taking It Personally. You were nasty for no reason, you were hypocritical and you were bullying.

Knock if off and at least try to act like a decent human being.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:36 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Agree, this is incredibly depressing. We really can do better than this. Or maybe we can't, and that's a serious negative for MeFi, not one easily to be forgotten when we have our rah-rah moments.
posted by Miko at 6:04 AM on March 31, 2011


We really can do better than this. Or maybe we can't, and that's a serious negative for MeFi, not one easily to be forgotten when we have our rah-rah moments.

A handful of people (maybe 4, 5 tops) fight endlessly over nothing, and suddenly that's a reflection on all of us? No way. That's their choice. There seem to always be a handful of people around who are willing to do that, but it seems that most people move through it at one point or another. If anything, that's the reflection on the community- that a lot of us grow up a lot over time.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:16 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


That does seem to have some truth to it, TPS. You get wiser about picking your discussions and discussion partners, I guess. It's frustrating when a handful of people stomp all over a good discussion, but that's why I'm leaning toward the idea of those who want the good discussion to get better at ignoring it. At the same time, I think it's fair to object to name-calling when it happens.
posted by Miko at 6:35 AM on March 31, 2011


Brandon: I lost my temper and I'll take full responsibility for that.

But no, I do not agree that EC was acting in good faith in repeatedly picking a fight over something that almost everyone agreed on early in the discussion. She's preaching to the choir, and insulting multiple people in the process.

And from here out, I'm going to follow klangklangston's helpful advice of just rolling when I see a big pile of shit dumped on me. Part of it is, clearly I'm not helping things by getting defensive over my relationships, fellowship, and activism with religious people and groups. And part of is that clearly the ideological turf war here isn't the place for it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:42 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


The United Methodist Church for example ... has an explicit prohibition on LGBT people as ministers.

That link doesn't actually say that. It says:
The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.
Now, that is clearly discrimination against LGBT people, but it's not a prohibition on them serving as ministers unless a monastery requiring that its monks not be married is an explicit prohibition on heterosexual people joining, which it's not.
posted by Jahaza at 7:19 AM on March 31, 2011


ThePinkSuperhero: " A handful of people (maybe 4, 5 tops) fight endlessly over nothing, and suddenly that's a reflection on all of us? No way. That's their choice. There seem to always be a handful of people around who are willing to do that, but it seems that most people move through it at one point or another. If anything, that's the reflection on the community- that a lot of us grow up a lot over time."

I don't think this is a matter of maturity but of anger and frustration. (Or maybe that's just me!) People are talking past each other. They're accusing each other of things that they are and aren't doing. They're not being particularly charitable or friendly towards each other while doing it.

Our behavior, all of us in this thread, does seem to me to be an overall reflection of our community. Some folks chose to attack each other or let their aggression and emotions get the best of them. Some chose to step in and ask that people treat each other respectfully. Others chose to escalate the argument. Some tried to steer the direction of conversation away from nastiness into something more civil. Some simply mocked from the sidelines or added nothing of substance, and others weighed in to talk about their own experiences.

In all, what typically happens in a pair of contentious Mefi and Meta threads on just about any topic.

I know that's not what Miko really meant. But looking at it from another angle, this thread and the other do seem to me to be reflective of our community.
posted by zarq at 7:45 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jahaza: Point taken. But the word, "practicing" is often a limbo bar that can be raised or lowered arbitrarily. Does it mean sex? Or can it include attending support groups and revealing your orientation (as is often the case in the military)? Still, it's explicit institutional discrimination.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:00 AM on March 31, 2011


Delusions of persecution seem to be one of the fantasist refuges of the unhappy atheist. Yes, I know you don't win popularity contests, like elections. That doesn't mean you're oppressed.

I'm having a hard time not telling you to go fuck yourself.

Atheists are in the minority in the US, and unless you can come up with specific evidence that the general xenophobia the human race is oh so capable of in their treatment of pretty much every other minority somehow magically doesn't apply in this one special case I'm not sure why I should give you any respect for your apparently unthinking comment.

Why don't you read Nattie's comment about her relative feelings of fear related to atheism vs. being a woman? Do you think that attitude came about in a vacuum? It's not a fantasy to have almost every conversation you engage with on a subject go badly for you. To be equated with child molesters and satanists. To constantly hear from everyone that you chose atheism so that you could embrace hedonism with no consequence. To be told by someone that they think you should die for being an atheist and that when they were younger and angrier they'd have tried to kill you for it (this guy was the one who re-closeted me as an atheist).

I'd accept without rage a statement that atheists are generally much less persecuted than other minorities, and almost certainly agree with it at least until hearing from people who are black and atheist, or who have experience persecution as both a religious minority and atheist. But do you go around ranking other minorities by your perception of how oppressed they are, and telling the ones who don't make the cut of top ten oppressed that they should suck it up? Because that probably won't go over well.

I'll grant that I've experienced almost no oppression personally other than feeling that I have to hide who I am from everyone until I know I can trust them to behave rationally.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:00 AM on March 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'll grant that I've experienced almost no oppression personally other than feeling that I have to hide who I am from everyone until I know I can trust them to behave rationally.

That's not being oppressed, though. Most people are going to be reserved around others until they know what common ground exists, whatever that may be.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:04 AM on March 31, 2011


But no, I do not agree that EC was acting in good faith in repeatedly picking a fight over something that almost everyone agreed on early in the discussion. She's preaching to the choir, and insulting multiple people in the process.

*shrugs*

Lots of people were being insulting to her. Both sides were insulting each other and either blind to that fact and up on their moral high horse about it, so therefore it was ok.

Remember, ya'll are both on the same side, really. Sniping and cutting at each other really doesn't do much except draw bad blood, get people who agree on basic principles pissed off. Meanwhile the crap you're both against continues along its sordid path. I wouldn't call that a win.

On New Comment Show:
I'd accept without rage a statement that atheists are generally much less persecuted than other minorities, and almost certainly agree with it at least until hearing from people who are black and atheist

I'm black and agonist and the absolute scorn I come across at times is mind-boggling and, to me, somewhat humorous. It's interesting how people react when confronted with such a radical thought.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:08 AM on March 31, 2011


KirkJobSluder: " But no, I do not agree that EC was acting in good faith in repeatedly picking a fight over something that almost everyone agreed on early in the discussion. She's preaching to the choir, and insulting multiple people in the process. "

I've been following this discussion throughout and don't believe that "almost everyone agreed on" the several points Empress was discussing "early in the discussion."

FWIW, I gave up arguing a point about beliefs vs. actions with her a few dozen comments back because I had repeated myself at least twice and neither of us were agreeing. I didn't see the point of beating a dead horse and frankly this discussion featured far too much of that already.
posted by zarq at 8:10 AM on March 31, 2011


Burhanistan, if a Muslim can successfully pretend to be a white christian in the bible belt does that mean they are not being oppressed? I'd argue not. Personally, I don't consider myself to be oppressed, because on balance, I suspect my young white male heterosexual privilege more than cancels out all the prejudice I receive as an atheist. I will argue that atheists as a general class are oppressed, and if you are already in some other more visible minority I'm sure it doesn't help to be an atheist too.

I'm reserved about a lot of things, not just my atheism. Mostly because I'm a fairly compartmentalized person with a strong sense of privacy. The difference between reserve and diffidence and actively hiding your nature is that to hide my atheism I frequently have to lie or misdirect rather than just withhold comment.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:46 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


The difference between reserve and diffidence and actively hiding your nature is that to hide my atheism I frequently have to lie or misdirect rather than just withhold comment.

I have a Christian friend who, like me, has long been active in various edge and underground music and media scenes. Yeah, call him an artist. Anyway, as he's often confided to me, in our particular shared scene, he's the one who's had to embrace what you describe here (the lies and misdirects), because in our scene, the avowed believers are in the minority, and unless they're looking for a verbal fight which often includes a pile-on, they've learned a few useful avoidance strategies.

So the question that arises for me has nothing to do with alleged gods or imaginary friends -- it's with the tyranny of majorities, particularly when those majorities won't acknowledge themselves as such. That is, yeah in the greater society out there, atheists are not in any way a majority, but in many of its sub-groups, they are. The degree to which they won't (can't?) acknowledge this is the degree to which they risk becoming exactly the kind of bullies they've come to hate.

And now a Doobie Bros song ...
posted by philip-random at 10:32 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus built my hot-rod.
posted by bardic at 10:32 AM on March 31, 2011


Nattie: On top of all this, a lot of atheists have suffered psychologically and broken with theism because of some REALLY fucked up stuff.

I want to elaborate on this with an anecdote. I grew up in a secular environment. My household was atheistic quite literally: I don't recall religion or God ever being mentioned. It was a non-issue. I've always been surrounded by a secular social circle, in a largely secular part of the country, and I've never felt any kind of oppression except for the distant vitriol that happens on national television and politics*.

About a year ago I sought out the local atheists group because I wanted to talk with like-minded people about skepticism and activism. I had no idea what I'd stepped into.

It was like a "survivors of theism" support group. Unlike me, many people there had arrived at atheism as the result of a long and bitter struggle involving deeply fucked up and sustained abuse at the hands of theist family and communities.

It's easy to say "atheists aren't oppressed"... until you meet some who have been.



* E.g., Newt Gingrich recently explaining to a megachurch audience how he fears the nation will become "an atheist country ... dominated by radical islamists". It doesn't even make sense!

posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:25 AM on March 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


METAFILTER: "an atheist country ... dominated by radical islamists". It doesn't even make sense!
posted by philip-random at 11:50 AM on March 31, 2011


So the question that arises for me has nothing to do with alleged gods or imaginary friends -- it's with the tyranny of majorities, particularly when those majorities won't acknowledge themselves as such. That is, yeah in the greater society out there, atheists are not in any way a majority, but in many of its sub-groups, they are. The degree to which they won't (can't?) acknowledge this is the degree to which they risk becoming exactly the kind of bullies they've come to hate.

Somebody pointed out above that this kind of thinking doesn't work. The fact that there are "scenes" full of atheists does not change or mitigate the fact that "in the greater society out there, atheists are not in any way a majority"... in fact, those kinds of scenes can just as easily be seen as a refuge from "the tyranny of majorities" as well as an example of such.

tl;dr: do you really intend to suggest that atheists should have nowhere where they can be the majority, or that they should have to treat theists who enter "their" space with more respect than they get when they enter theist spaces? I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous -- just another way in which atheists are held to double-standards.
posted by vorfeed at 11:57 AM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm suggesting that it's good basic conduct to treat people with respect. Period. Whether in the minority or the majority. Once they've proven that they don't deserve that respect, well that's a different dynamic.

The fact that there are "scenes" full of atheists does not change or mitigate the fact that "in the greater society out there, atheists are not in any way a majority"... in fact, those kinds of scenes can just as easily be seen as a refuge from "the tyranny of majorities" as well as an example of such.

I've lived in Vancouver, a pretty damned liberal town, for the better part of the last four decades. I honestly can't think of a single instance (except perhaps the odd wedding or funeral) where I've felt that to be an atheist is to be an outsider. Far from it. So at least as far as Vancouver is concerned, at what point does one stop licking ancient wounds and accept the fact that there's no marginalizing going on, and there hasn't been for decades?
posted by philip-random at 2:08 PM on March 31, 2011


. Unlike me, many people there had arrived at atheism as the result of a long and bitter struggle involving deeply fucked up and sustained abuse at the hands of theist family and communities.

Just a data point that there are a lot of theists out there as well that have these struggles in their backgrounds, too. Some move on to new and different faiths, some become agnostic, some stay in their faith and get involved in leadership for change or speaking out, and some, as you've noted, opt for atheism. Not that I minimize the struggles in any way, and I did agree in a comment above that there are many people who have been scarred by abuse of power in religion, but that experience isn't unique only to atheists.
posted by Miko at 2:26 PM on March 31, 2011


Yeah, I was raised in an atheistic household. My mother would regale us with tales of the crazy evangelist Christian lady at her work. My father might've been agnostic, but questions of meaning and faith were so far in the periphery that it didn't matter. I was atheist until teenage years, agnostic then, and then became a dyed in the wool believer after some experiences that I don't care to share here.

I grew up with a healthy mistrust of religion and religious people, and still draw from that even now that I'm quite religious in my daily life. Lots and lots of religious people have disdain for institutional religion, and are not blind sheep.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:47 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm suggesting that it's good basic conduct to treat people with respect. Period. Whether in the minority or the majority. Once they've proven that they don't deserve that respect, well that's a different dynamic.

Again, when this is applied to minorities it becomes a double standard. I agree that it is good basic conduct to treat people with respect, whether in the minority or the majority, but there are obvious reasons why expecting the minority to do this is problematic.

Telling the minority to "treat everyone with respect" implies that they cannot have a space where they are the power-majority as the power-majority tends to work. It sends the message that they are not free to set their own community norms, even when they run the community. And that doesn't happen to the majority, not in the same way. The fact is that no one is telling churches that they must (or even should) throw their arms open to unrepentant atheists. No, churches have religious freedoms which allow them to discriminate, even in hiring. But oh, look, Christians aren't particularly welcome in this art scene! Sometimes they get yelled at! Clearly, this is an example of how the tyranny of majorities has nothing to do with religion!

Nonsense. The kind of "respect" you're asking for only works one way in practice -- not coincidentally, in the direction respect is "supposed" to flow according to the majority -- and is thus entirely hollow.

Besides, there's a reason why a lot of "edge and underground music and media scenes" are anti-religious in general and anti-Christian in particular. They did not just get that way through the "the tyranny of majorities", as if a bunch of tolerant, respectful atheists got together through random twists of fate, hit the magic 51%, and aggregated into a mean ol' black hole through the sheer power of their combined gravity. The ideology of scenes like this is anti-religious partly as a reaction to and a refuge from the rest of society, and that kind of refuge -- that kind of freedom to speak, even if that speech is angry or disrespectful -- is important to minorities.

Yes, even in Vancouver.

So at least as far as Vancouver is concerned, at what point does one stop licking ancient wounds and accept the fact that there's no marginalizing going on, and there hasn't been for decades?

Frankly, this is not "as far as Vancouver is concerned". This is "as far as you are concerned." Likewise, you are more than welcome to choose to "stop licking ancient wounds and accept the fact that there's no marginalizing going on, and there hasn't been for decades"... but when you expect everyone else to do so, you're asking way too much of people who may, actually, have encountered marginalization.

You're in a scene where a lot of people are anti-Christian, yet you don't see "a single instance" why, other than things that happened decades ago? Maybe you should try to get a few of these people to "confide in you" about how wonderful they think Vancouver is for atheists.
posted by vorfeed at 3:22 PM on March 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


You're in a scene where a lot of people are anti-Christian, yet you don't see "a single instance" why, other than things that happened decades ago?

Actually, you're right, there are have been four instances, arguably six. Seven if you go back 42 years.

But seriously, from a strictly local Vancouver perspective, no, I personally have not personally experienced much at all in the way of non-believers suffering at the hand of some faith-based majority. As for why a liberal, progressive city such as Vancouver would have an arts scene that is effectively non-Christian (I wouldn't say Anti-Christian), I absolutely agree with some of your logic; that this kind of thing doesn't happen in a vacuum, that it must be informed by negative experiences that a significant percentage of this creative, thoughtful community have no doubt been subject to (look no further than some of the horrific shit that went down in the early days of AIDS).

All of this helps me understand the anger, aggression, PASSION that informs much of current atheist skepticism toward anyone who would dare espouse a faith-based position. But bottom line, it still doesn't excuse uncivil behavior, which is ultimately just eye-for-an-eye shit that doesn't get us anywhere. And more to the point, it stands in the way of getting the best out of these people (that is, the believers who are cool enough to not stay comfortably ensconced within the protective fencing of their faith-based communities).


And yeah, it seems that some of that's been going down in this thread.
posted by philip-random at 4:33 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is absolutely, absolutely NOTHING that divides like Jesus. Not politics, not social class, not cilantro.


Nothing.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:45 PM on March 31, 2011


There is absolutely, absolutely NOTHING that divides like Jesus.

Wait'll you see him do long division!
posted by doublehappy at 5:14 PM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Could God create a divisor so naught that even he could not divide by it?
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:18 PM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is absolutely, absolutely NOTHING that divides like Jesus.

Division be praised!

You get what you're after, I guess.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:19 PM on March 31, 2011


I always hated long division. Finally had to teach myself a workaround, which got me through Grade Three, but fuck it, I was always going to be artist-type after that.
posted by philip-random at 5:37 PM on March 31, 2011


All of this helps me understand the anger, aggression, PASSION that informs much of current atheist skepticism toward anyone who would dare espouse a faith-based position. But bottom line, it still doesn't excuse uncivil behavior, which is ultimately just eye-for-an-eye shit that doesn't get us anywhere. And more to the point, it stands in the way of getting the best out of these people (that is, the believers who are cool enough to not stay comfortably ensconced within the protective fencing of their faith-based communities).

I disagree. Anger, aggression, passion, uncivil behavior, and eye-for-an-eye shit often does get you somewhere: it gets you to forms of art and expression which are implicitly or explicitly non-Christian or anti-Christian. In a culture which is absolutely dominated by Christian and proto-Christian messages, I find incredible value in that. I have little patience for those who'd have it turn into more of the same "inclusive" pablum, especially not if it's done in order to make Christians comfortable in a scene which started partly in order to give angry, aggressive, passionate artists a space away from the non-stop bleat of Christianity.

The "believers who are cool enough to not stay comfortably ensconced within the protective fencing of their faith-based communities" are probably also cool enough to deal with an honest dose of what it's like to be in the minority, without demanding that their own beliefs take precedence over everyone else's. If not, they can leave. Same as it'd be for me if I went to church, actually.

As far as I'm concerned, one of the most important lessons anyone can learn in this life is that everyone is not welcome everywhere. Sometimes you have to pay your dues, even as other people walk through the door for free... and sometimes even that's not enough. On the one hand, that's a bit of a shame, especially when it happens to you. But on the other: do you want to have more than one door that goes to more than one way of thinking, or not?
posted by vorfeed at 5:43 PM on March 31, 2011


"I disagree. Anger, aggression, passion, uncivil behavior, and eye-for-an-eye shit often does get you somewhere: it gets you to forms of art and expression which are implicitly or explicitly non-Christian or anti-Christian. In a culture which is absolutely dominated by Christian and proto-Christian messages, I find incredible value in that. I have little patience for those who'd have it turn into more of the same "inclusive" pablum, especially not if it's done in order to make Christians comfortable in a scene which started partly in order to give angry, aggressive, passionate artists a space away from the non-stop bleat of Christianity. "

There is some heavy-duty conflation going on here, and some amazingly irrational assumptions and statements being dropped in your screed.

Anger, aggression and passion isn't the same as uncivil behavior, though they can overlap. And vengeful (a better word than the clumsy eye-for-an-eye thing) and uncivil behavior aren't necessary for anti-Christian, and especially not non-Christian art.

But all of this is pretty much bullshit tu quoque reasoning, and it doesn't work because the same reasoning justifies some Christians treating all non-Christians (and quite a few Christians) badly. If you want to yell "Fuck you, Christians," all day long, don't whine when some Christians do the same thing right back at you. But then it's all, "Help, help, I'm oppressed!"

Further, while I don't really have a problem with exclusionary spaces on some levels, MetaFilter explicitly isn't one where you can just drop any antagonism you like on the thin justification that your life sucks elsewhere. And it certainly doesn't excuse you from the general mandate of civility, or at least not being a fucking asshole all the time just because your priest pissed in your cornflakes.

More, the vast majority of art that's simply anti-Christian is still pablum. Just being antagonistic doesn't make your work interesting or profound. Sorry if this comes as a shock to you, but once you get out of middle school, maybe you can broaden your horizons a little bit.

So, again: You overestimate the coherence of both religion and Christianity, being a dick is being a dick pretty much no matter who does it, your favorite anti-Christian bands still suck, and one part of the Bible you could learn from is the bit about motes and beams.
posted by klangklangston at 6:56 PM on March 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


There is absolutely, absolutely NOTHING that divides like Jesus

As the immortal words of a bumper sticker have it, I don't think it's Jesus that's doing the dividing.
posted by Miko at 7:31 PM on March 31, 2011


Well, Jesus said this Himself, in Matthew 10:34-36....

34“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household


That sounds pretty divisive to me.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:07 PM on March 31, 2011


Jesus is cool with me. Christianity, not so much.

IN GENERAL. I KNOW THERE ARE LIBERAL CHRISTIANS/CHRISTIANS WHO DON'T SUCK.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:23 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


That sounds pretty divisive to me.

Well, I'll just note that it's not Jesus who's doing the dividing. He's depicted as polarizing, no doubt, but people turn against one another, unless they choose not to. He doesn't do it or require people to do it.

As you know, there are plenty of places in the stories where he reminds people of their other options.
posted by Miko at 8:52 PM on March 31, 2011


"Once they've proven that they don't deserve that respect, well that's a different dynamic. "

People who walk around thinking other people who don't agree with them are going to hell forever don't deserve respect, ever. They are lunatics and sociopaths.

As for a nice liberal enclave like Vancouver (which is, indeed, quite lovely) it's all well and good to not suffer from Christians in your personal life. But speaking as an American, you can't ignore the larger issues -- many Christians are actively working to do things like a) keep consenting, loving adults from getting married, b) not allowing women to have access to healthcare and privacy regarding personal issues between her and her doctor, c) promoting useless and costly foreign expeditions against brown people, and d) actively demonizing and denigrating muslims (I'm an equal opportunity hater when it comes to religion, but "anti-muslim" means racist).
posted by bardic at 8:59 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


amazingly irrational assumptions and statements being dropped in your screed. [...] bullshit tu quoque reasoning [...] being a fucking asshole all the time just because your priest pissed in your cornflakes [...] sorry if this comes as a shock to you, but once you get out of middle school, maybe you can broaden your horizons a little bit [...] being a dick is being a dick pretty much no matter who does it, your favorite anti-Christian bands still suck, and one part of the Bible you could learn from is the bit about motes and beams.

Right. You're clearly all about civility... not to mention motes and beams.
posted by vorfeed at 10:26 PM on March 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, because all of the sudden, you care about cussing.
posted by klangklangston at 10:44 PM on March 31, 2011


The only cussing I've done in this thread was a quote ("eye-for-an-eye shit"). My problem with your comments has more to do with direct personal attacks than with language, anyway.

As always, defending "civility" with comments like "your life sucks elsewhere", "once you get out of middle school", and "being a fucking asshole all the time just because your priest pissed in your cornflakes" says much more about you than it does about me. If tu quoque reasoning is "bullshit", "doesn't excuse you from the general mandate of civility", and "being a dick is being a dick pretty much no matter who does it", then what's your excuse?

I don't see anything I've written in this thread -- or anywhere on metafilter, for that matter -- which is remotely as uncivil as the way you've addressed me here.
posted by vorfeed at 11:02 PM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I don't see anything I've written in this thread -- or anywhere on metafilter, for that matter -- which is remotely as uncivil as the way you've addressed me here."

Yeah, I know. Hence the line about motes and beams.

—"Amazingly irrational assumptions and statements being dropped in your screed" is only uncivil if you think being told you're wrong is uncivil. Like those magic religionists who need the special pleading, the ones you're always talking about. You've made what I consider irrational assumptions, like that your aesthetic preferences regarding "anti-Christian art" is some sort of objective statement.

—"Bullshit tu quoque reasoning" refers to your fallacious assertion that because others treat you poorly, you are thus justified to treat them poorly. It's bullshit because it's an emotional appeal based on how you feel like acting, not how you're justified in acting. I call bullshit, "bullshit." It's not terribly politic, but pretending that this tone somehow invalidates the underlying statement is, well, bullshit.

—"Being a fucking asshole all the time just because your priest pissed in your cornflakes." So, wait, you believe you would be justified to act like an asshole all the time if a priest did literally piss in your cornflakes? Or are you crying now because it implied you were acting like an asshole? Because when you start arguing for anger, aggression and "uncivil", "eye-for-an-eye" shit — which you explicitly did do — under the false rubric that it leads to valuable art, that's what you're doing. And the line of meta-asshole ("Oh, no, I wasn't being a dick! I was just arguing that dickery is inherently valuable in our society!") from actual asshole is incredibly thin.

—"Sorry if this comes as a shock to you, but once you get out of middle school, maybe you can broaden your horizons a little bit." Yep, that was a snide thing for me to say. On the other hand, it's true — 99 percent of message art is shitty, and "anti-Christian" art very much falls into that. "Non-Christian art" is so incredibly broad that it's meaningless. If you can't find non-Christian art, you are literally locked in a Christ-hole without television, radio or internet.

—"being a dick is being a dick pretty much no matter who does it, your favorite anti-Christian bands still suck, and one part of the Bible you could learn from is the bit about motes and beams." This is pretty much just a recapitulation of what I said earlier. I can see how Onion clichés are uncivil to readers, but a trite shorthand is still a shorthand.

As for being a dick, you only seem to care when it's your oxen being gored.
posted by klangklangston at 11:33 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just had a vision of an old carny wagon from the 1890s with "Christ-hole" painted on the side. It was a blacked out padded chamber where you could pay to lock your hysterical children in for a nickel to cast out demons.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:39 PM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


As for being a dick, you only seem to care when it's your oxen being gored.

What the fuck are you talking about, when has Vorfeed been a dick in this thread? Lots of people have been, but I haven't seen her say anything dickish at all. You disagreed with her defense of a space for explicitly anti-Christian art, and you responded by escalating the argument, implying she was a bigot, and being an unbelievably snide asshole to her. Your first comment to her and your snarky line-by-line justification were both so palpably vitriolic (and the vitriol has been so one-sided) that I think it's totally ludicrous for you to claim to be defending civility, of all things.

I call bullshit, "bullshit." It's not terribly politic, but pretending that this tone somehow invalidates the underlying statement is, well, bullshit.

The irony is overwhelming.
posted by dialetheia at 3:19 AM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


dialetheia: "
What the fuck are you talking about, when has Vorfeed been a dick in this thread?
"

She's arguing that there's "incredible value" in treating all theists badly because she's a minority atheist. Yes, that seems rather dickish. Being a minority shouldn't give any of us a pass to be incivil, especially to people who are not being directly oppressive of us.

If I announced that I should have some inherent right to be aggressively angry towards individual Christians here on MeFi because I'm Jewish, would you also support it? I'm a member of as much of an historically marginalized-by-Christians minority as atheists are.
posted by zarq at 5:11 AM on April 1, 2011


I'm having a hard time not telling you to go fuck yourself...

Apparently so hard a time that you had to do so in a backhanded way. Look, I'm willing to just accept that you and others call "oppressive" anything that hurts your feelings. I think the words "privilege" and "oppression" have particular meanings which are made mockery of when applied to christian belief and societal treatment of atheism, respectively. But whatever, agree to disagree.

My only concern is that this "oppression" not be used as an excuse for bad behavior in metafilter threads. I and others would like to be able to discuss aspects of religious belief, experience, texts, etc. that don't explicity deal with the question of whether god exists or not or whether christians are beasts or not without the thread being immediately derailed by posters intent on (always and everywhere) announcing the folly of belief and the evil of believers. Seems simple.
posted by generalist at 5:54 AM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, to clarify, I of course know that there have been times and still are places wherein non-believers have been terribly persecuted, and that is a blot on christianity/monotheism. As is the support and perpetuation, at the individual and institutional level, of homophobic/heterosexist attitudes and policies. There is plenty to criticise in contemporary christianity, and there are plenty of places where it's appropriate--just not every single place every single time.
posted by generalist at 6:20 AM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


My only concern is that this "oppression" not be used as an excuse for bad behavior in metafilter threads.

Well that I can totally agree with.

I'm just upset when people appear to play the "it's all in your head" hand waving game over a lifetime of petty abuse and prejudice. Mostly I'm upset on other people's behalf who have suffered a lot more than I have over issues of lack of belief. I don't generally get in the habit of using the terms oppression and privilege as they've become so overloaded as to be almost meaningless. I suspect if you'd unpacked those terms more thoroughly I wouldn't have felt the need to lash out at you (although I'd probably have still disagreed, just with more regional and localized examples). I'm not interested at all in evangelizing for atheism, but I just want to be able to be open about my lack of faith in God without people assuming I'm angry at believers or assuming that I have no system of morality and treating me like a sociopath.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:30 AM on April 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Apparently so hard a time that you had to do so in a backhanded way.

Sorry.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:31 AM on April 1, 2011


Brandon: Remember, ya'll are both on the same side, really. Sniping and cutting at each other really doesn't do much except draw bad blood, get people who agree on basic principles pissed off. Meanwhile the crap you're both against continues along its sordid path. I wouldn't call that a win.

I've been thinking a lot about this, and the "ya'll are both on the same side" thing bothers me. First of all I'm trying not to think about issues that way because it's part of the problem. And it ignores that there's a real disagreement at stake here.

After watching the shit hit the fan on religious issues dozens of times now, and reading this discussion, I'm seriously questioning how many people really want religious discussion here beyond the same old flamewars and scolding. It's the same dynamic that goes on in political threads that get habitually derailed to pro/anti-Obama axe-grinding. Sure, you might be right that someone is being a jerk, but what does that have to do with Holtz, Hirschfield, Bell, or Universalism? You might be entirely right that someone is politically naive, but what does that have to do with the issue in the post?

And I've become part of the problem, and it's become a problem for me. I'm doing a ton of thinking and talking about what kinds of interfaith relationships I want, and apparently the answer is not metafilter, where there's a tiny nugget of good and informed discussion that gets routinely smothered under the porcupine defensiveness. So I'm going to limit my involvement to praising what I see as the good posts and aggressively flag the bad, but I don't see much hope that it will change.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:19 AM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


zarq: If I announced that I should have some inherent right to be aggressively angry towards individual Christians here on MeFi because I'm Jewish, would you also support it? I'm a member of as much of an historically marginalized-by-Christians minority as atheists are.

In some cases, I think that's appropriate for a couple of reasons. See MLK's argument about valuing the appearance of civility and peace in the face of oppression for one reason.

I'm not certain that the other reason applies to Jews, but it certainly applies to LGBT people, feminists, and atheists who are routinely stereotyped as angry, uncivil, and aggressive. I'm not going to shoulder the burden of being acceptable to everyone in an environment where accusations of rudeness are reflexive.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:45 AM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


> I and others would like to be able to discuss aspects of religious belief, experience, texts, etc. that don't explicity deal with the question of whether god exists or not or whether christians are beasts or not without the thread being immediately derailed by posters intent on (always and everywhere) announcing the folly of belief and the evil of believers. Seems simple.

Indeed, this is the whole thing in a few concise sentences. The conflation of the world at large and Metafilter threads is just silly. There's been so much bloviating about being oppressed but the simple fact is that all this was about was having the courtesy to allow people to discuss particulars of religious belief without having boorish threadshitting.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:50 AM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's been so much bloviating about being oppressed but the simple fact is that all this was about was having the courtesy to allow people to discuss particulars of religious belief without having boorish threadshitting.

Please, I don't want to bloviate on the subject any more than you want to hear it. I totally agree that there was boorish threadshitting, and to the extent that I fed the troll I apologize for it. Just don't make this about atheists as a general class as opposed to the subset of boors and trolls who happen to also be atheists, and I'll gladly refrain from ever talking about prejudice against atheism again (except in threads with that as the intended topic).
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:16 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Just don't make this about atheists as a general class as opposed to the subset of boors and trolls who happen to also be atheists

Indeed, and please note that I didn't even mention the word "atheist".
posted by Burhanistan at 8:40 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


You've made what I consider irrational assumptions, like that your aesthetic preferences regarding "anti-Christian art" is some sort of objective statement.

"I find incredible value in that" is not an objective statement. It is, in fact, an expression of personal aesthetic preference.

Unlike "99 percent of message art is shitty", by the way.

Because when you start arguing for anger, aggression and "uncivil", "eye-for-an-eye" shit — which you explicitly did do — under the false rubric that it leads to valuable art, that's what you're doing.

Nonsense. Arguing for anger, aggression and uncivil, eye-for-an-eye shit in art is not "acting like an asshole". Art doesn't have to be nice, and the mere fact that I don't agree with you about the value of 'dickishness' in art (or society, or metafilter, or my bowl of cornflakes) has nothing to do with how I'm "acting". There is some heavy-duty conflation going on here between ideas and behavior...

And, again, "I find value in this art" is not a "false rubric". Since when is there a "true rubric" with regards to art, anyway?
posted by vorfeed at 10:49 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't intend to slag you, only to point out (if a bit icily) that these two threads have both been all about you, you, you

Perhaps bad timing, EC, since you are already upset, but I'd like to gently point out that this is a valid criticism. I think you often over-rely on your own experiences as a gateway into discussing issues here on the site. A recent example, the thread about Wisconsin protests in which you ended up going on about all the minutiae of your theater union in NYC.

Yes, we all bring our own lives and experiences into a discussion, and people's openness w/r/t sharing them is part of what makes MetaFilter special. But I think you have a tendency to sort of ooze personal anecdotes that are a tad less special or relevant than you think they are -- and because your involvement starts off as being more or less personal, you take things more personally when people disagree with you.

Yeah I know, glass houses and all that. I always feel I'm constantly on the verge of over-exposure in my contributions here. Those of us who have incorporated the internet into a vast chunk of our personal social experience have to always be on guard. I guess what I'm trying to say (and what I personally feel I've learned the hard way) is: don't be afraid to hold back.
posted by hermitosis at 10:57 AM on April 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


She's arguing that there's "incredible value" in treating all theists badly because she's a minority atheist. Yes, that seems rather dickish. Being a minority shouldn't give any of us a pass to be incivil, especially to people who are not being directly oppressive of us.

Like I said above, I disagree. When the mere idea that there should be a space for anti-Christian art is seen as incivil enough to justify frothing personal insults (which of course is "not how I'm justified in acting" when I advocate a space for anti-Christian art!), it shows that there's a double-standard at play. As I've said before, "angry atheists" cannot win the "dickishness" game, because disliking religion is itself defined as "dickish" by many, no matter how reasonably or politely it is expressed. It's a Catch-22 in which the available options are "dickishness" or "shut up"... and expecting the latter from an entire group of people based solely on the content of their opinions creates a truly incivil environment. Encountering disagreement and even outright opposition to one's ideas is not the same as being treated badly -- it is, in fact, being treated the same as everyone on metafilter.

Actual instances of being treated badly are another matter, and people on both sides of the argument occasionally cross the line... but I think the mods do a decent job with this on the blue.

In short, KirkJobSluder said it very well: I'm not going to shoulder the burden of being acceptable to everyone in an environment where accusations of rudeness are reflexive.
posted by vorfeed at 11:24 AM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not going to shoulder the burden of being acceptable to everyone in an environment where accusations of rudeness are reflexive.

Of course your right to be a petulant ass is inalienable. If the post title is, say, "GOD-real or not?" feel free to try out ever-wittier formulations of invisible-sky-blank and unleash shattering comparisons of god to fictional creatures beloved by children. Numerous posters here simply request that if the post has to do with some slightly more arcane aspect of belief, you let the god-botherers and simpletons enjoy their imaginary confection. I mean, you have no idea how hard it is for me to refrain from posting John 3: 16 in every single thread on metafilter, but somehow I manage.
posted by generalist at 12:24 PM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


About a year ago I sought out the local atheists group because I wanted to talk with like-minded people about skepticism and activism. I had no idea what I'd stepped into.

It was like a "survivors of theism" support group


Well, what else are atheists supposed to talk about, in the context of their own atheism? If it wasn't for theists injecting religion everyone's lives, it would just completely not be an issue. The handwringing in here about the mean old atheists beating up on the poor oppressed theists is pretty laughable, too. I can totally agree that there are a few assholes on either side of this that take the rhetoric over the top and are uncivil, but the idea that Christians are some kind of beaten down minority is so weird. I have as much sympathy for that argument as I do with "if you're talking about feminism you're against us men". There are plenty of interesting things to say on this subject without resorting to pointless whining. Which is, incidentally, one of the reasons why I'd never go visit a local atheists group.
posted by norm at 1:01 PM on April 1, 2011


> "angry atheists" cannot win the "dickishness" game, because disliking religion is itself defined as "dickish" by many, no matter how reasonably or politely it is expressed. It's a Catch-22 in which the available options are "dickishness" or "shut up"

This seems tautological, though. I'm quite religious and don't mind if an atheist says they mistrust religion or something. I can understand this fine.

The problem is when voicing something like this has no real bearing on a discussion. It's like coming into a thread about Radiohead and saying you don't like them. Who cares then? It's just being contrarian for its own sake at this point. If we keep this discussion to specifics (and for sanity's sake it needs to be there, and not just a referendum on atheist oppression in general), then the original post this MeTa calls out is a fine example of that.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:05 PM on April 1, 2011


generalist: Of course your right to be a petulant ass is inalienable.

I've been in the position of being called an ass for posts that were carefully constructed not to cause offense, and called one again for apologizing for the unintended offense. I've been called an ass for mild disagreement, I've been called an ass for agreement, and I've been called ignorant and unfriendly for saying nothing. This past season, I've seen atheists accused of rudeness for not saying, "Merry Christmas," and accused of rudeness for saying it.

No, I'm not going to use any of the arguments so slurs you mention in your post, because, believe it or not, I actually have and value good relationships with religious people. I have very little desire to argue that someone shouldn't believe in God, or the afterlife. My interest in religious beliefs is a desire to understand them better.

But I'm not going to shoulder the impossible responsibility of pleasing everyone either, because that's mostly beyond my control.

Nor am I going to categorically condemn anger as a response to anti-semitism, racism, homophobia, or religious prejudice. I cannot in good conscience deny zarq the right to ever get pissy about anti-Semitism, because sometimes that's the right thing to do.

Numerous posters here simply request that if the post has to do with some slightly more arcane aspect of belief, you let the god-botherers and simpletons enjoy their imaginary confection.

I'm not entirely certain what you mean by this. If you mean that a post should stay on-topic, I agree. But the entire flamewar should have been nuked and/or moved. And meanwhile, we've seen posts about atheist topics, and even posts in which outspoken atheists are tangentially involved have been derailed over the same flamewar. Posts on religion/atheism shouldn't become referendums on the unreasonableness of either side.

If you mean that posts about religious topics should be limited in participation, I don't think I agree for metafilter.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:31 PM on April 1, 2011


Well, either things seem to have settled into a rational argument, or I'm seeing things more clearly. Probably the latter.

klangklangston: “Because when you start arguing for anger, aggression and "uncivil", "eye-for-an-eye" shit — which you explicitly did do — under the false rubric that it leads to valuable art, that's what you're doing.”

vorfeed: “Nonsense. Arguing for anger, aggression and uncivil, eye-for-an-eye shit in art is not "acting like an asshole". Art doesn't have to be nice, and the mere fact that I don't agree with you about the value of 'dickishness' in art (or society, or metafilter, or my bowl of cornflakes) has nothing to do with how I'm "acting". There is some heavy-duty conflation going on here between ideas and behavior...”

A few points:

First of all, I don't know if you intend to do this, but as I'm reading it, you're drawing a distinction here between "art" and "action." But I don't know if I can easily see where such a distinction would be drawn. The hallowing of artistic space hasn't made sense since at least Duchamp; and in general, I think it's safe to say that art is identical to dialogue. If I paint "fuck you John Stamos" on a canvas and hang it in a gallery, is it substantially different from saying "fuck you John Stamos" in an internet forum? I'd argue not; and while art can have implications and meanings beyond linguistic communication, it's still the same kind of shared thing, insofar as it comes to us (and is therefore shared) and has a meaning that's communicated.

Second, it's understandable that ideas and behavior would be conflated. They are essentially the same thing on Metafilter. It's just the nature of the beast; when we communicate solely with text, it's hard to draw a dichotomy between words and actions because our words are really all there is to it. That's obviously not an absolute thing; there must be a recognition of some line here. Otherwise, for instance, jessamyn and cortex et al can't actually do any moderation; to moderate, they have to discern when people are being to personal, or to irrationally confrontational, etc, and try to police along that line.

Still, it's not an easy thing. And in that vacuum, I think it's worth recognizing that there's not really a meaningful difference between uncivil ideas and uncivil acts. I can say really obnoxious or offensive things in a soothing tone of voice, and often that will make it clear to the person I'm talking to that I'm quoting or that I don't mean those words; and refraining from physical violence with people I'm face to face with, acting with deference and respect physically, can show them strongly that anything I say should be taken in that context. It is much, much harder to establish that context here. That's why jokes about sensitive topics that might be quite appropriate offline – jokes about race, jokes about sexism, etc – are often a very, very bad idea online.

vorfeed: “When the mere idea that there should be a space for anti-Christian art is seen as incivil enough to justify frothing personal insults (which of course is "not how I'm justified in acting" when I advocate a space for anti-Christian art!), it shows that there's a double-standard at play.”

Nobody objected to "the mere idea that there should be a space for anti-Christian art." klangklangston objected to your "mere idea" that Metafilter is a space where "anger, aggression, passion, uncivil behavior, and eye-for-an-eye" should be directed toward Christians instead of making them "comfortable" with the same old "'inclusive' pablum." And he explicitly stated that he had no problem with the idea of spaces for anti-Christian art.

“As I've said before, "angry atheists" cannot win the "dickishness" game, because disliking religion is itself defined as "dickish" by many, no matter how reasonably or politely it is expressed. It's a Catch-22 in which the available options are "dickishness" or "shut up"... and expecting the latter from an entire group of people based solely on the content of their opinions creates a truly incivil environment. Encountering disagreement and even outright opposition to one's ideas is not the same as being treated badly -- it is, in fact, being treated the same as everyone on metafilter.”

The misconceptions and crudeness of the many don't change the truth. Lots of people might say: "it's impolite of you to say my religion is wrong!" That doesn't mean they're right. The fact that differing ideas are sometimes miscast as a kind of cruelty doesn't mean that there is no such thing as cruelty, or that cruelty is totally relative or unimportant or should be disregarded.

In other words: if people are going to assume you're an asshole, I don't know if I agree that the best thing to do is prove them right. I have a feeling it might be preferable just not to play the game, and to refuse to converse with such people. I don't think that would mean not interacting on Metafilter; for example, as far as I can tell, nobody in this thread has been playing the "all atheists are assholes" card. It's just that I don't think much can be gained from confronting people simply because they seem to have made the unfair assumption that we're confrontational.
posted by koeselitz at 1:39 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


as far as I can tell, nobody in this thread has been playing the "all atheists are assholes" card

Oh man, that's a good one! *wipes tear* Seriously, I am totally flabbergasted that anybody would make this statement, to the point where I don't even know if we're reading the same threads. To me, that's exactly what EC was doing with many commenters - somebody would say "[civilly expressed opinion that is critical of Christianity]" and then she would immediately answer "yeah, but that doesn't mean you all get to be dicks all the time, you dicks!" even when she was arguing with someone who was being totally respectful. I mean really, pretty much this exact exchange must have taken place at least 25 times in the two threads put together (and she wasn't the only one doing it by a long shot).

Yes, some people were definitely being dicks to her and others, and I think they have been fully called out for that behavior. But on the other hand, plenty of people (vorfeed, nattie, the young rope rider, and orthogonality, just as a few examples) were implicitly accused of being bigots or assholes just for trying to respectfully share their feelings about these religious discussions (which you might certainly disagree with, but they were not assholes about it). At this point, I really think everyone's perceptions of what happened in this thread have become so divergent that we might just have to agree to disagree. But I saw plenty of bad faith on all sides of this discussion, and I'm genuinely surprised that you can't see that.
posted by dialetheia at 2:22 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the biggest problem of this thread is that people were not confining the discussion to keeping Metafilter threads sane and respectful. Everything else was just basically baggage.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:27 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


dialetheia: “Oh man, that's a good one! *wipes tear* Seriously, I am totally flabbergasted that anybody would make this statement, to the point where I don't even know if we're reading the same threads. To me, that's exactly what EC was doing with many commenters - somebody would say "[civilly expressed opinion that is critical of Christianity]" and then she would immediately answer "yeah, but that doesn't mean you all get to be dicks all the time, you dicks!" even when she was arguing with someone who was being totally respectful. I mean really, pretty much this exact exchange must have taken place at least 25 times in the two threads put together (and she wasn't the only one doing it by a long shot)... But on the other hand, plenty of people (vorfeed, nattie, the young rope rider, and orthogonality, just as a few examples) were implicitly accused of being bigots or assholes just for trying to respectfully share their feelings about these religious discussions (which you might certainly disagree with, but they were not assholes about it). At this point, I really think everyone's perceptions of what happened in this thread have become so divergent that we might just have to agree to disagree. But I saw plenty of bad faith on all sides of this discussion, and I'm genuinely surprised that you can't see that.”

I never said there wasn't bad faith on both sides.

I said that nobody here had explicitly or implicitly claimed that all atheists are assholes, or made dark hints implicitly suggesting that those who don't believe in a god or gods are somehow more cruel, less civil, or less "nice" in any way than anybody else.

I've read and reread both this thread and the thread that spawned it more times than I'd like to admit. This statement still seems true to me.

“Yes, some people were definitely being dicks to her and others, and I think they have been fully called out for that behavior.”

It seems to me that that's not quite true, and is one of the causes of the problems here. Every time EmpressCallipygos tried to call out one of the people who'd been insulting, she was roundly dismissed as an anti-atheist bigot, and accused of generalizing about atheists – something she did not do once in this conversation. I know she got a bit upset, and probably let the conversation focus on her too much; but she was punished for that in her turn, too. And even when people said things like "fuck you" to her, nobody on the other side batted an eye; it was accepted and even defended that someone might be that insulting.

We've been far too partisan in this conversation, I think. I will take some responsibility for it, too, since I think I've been part of it.
posted by koeselitz at 2:40 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


norm: Well, what else are atheists supposed to talk about, in the context of their own atheism?

I'm much more interested in talking about morality, ethics, aesthetics, family, community, the universe, etc., etc. than counter-apologetics or the evils of Christian institutions.

Burhanistan: The post is centered on Rabbi Hirschfield's argument in response to the Christian Universalism of Holtz and Bell that beliefs in hell and the afterlife carry moral value. Hirschfield argues that a lack of belief in hell as a judgement for earthly sins tends to make people more moral.

Since Hirschfield is making what seems to be a religious humanist argument about the moral value of acting as if we have one life to live, secular humanist perspectives and questions strike me as quite appropriate. Since I'm accused of hypocrisy, appropriation, and moral nihilism on the basis of my lack of belief in the afterlife, I do believe I have an interest here.

koeselitz: Playing devil's advocate here because I'm a filthy accomodationist and not an antitheist. It's not cruel to say that any or all religions are an oppressive force in our culture, that participants in religious institutions tacitly support certain forms of injustice, and that religions in general should be eliminated. It's not cruel to say that atheists are hypocrites for acting in a moral manner while disbelieving in gods and the afterlife, either.

Should zarq express anger over anti-semitism here? That's not my place to decide because I'm not Jewish and don't experience anti-semitism. I'm not a muslim. I'm not a woman. I'm not transgender. I'm not black. I'm not latino. I'm not lesbian. It's not my place to set the standards on other people's anger because sometimes that anger needs to be expressed, understood, and listened to.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:48 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: And even when people said things like "fuck you" to her, nobody on the other side batted an eye; it was accepted and even defended that someone might be that insulting.

I take full responsibility and apologize for "fuck you" and "chip on the shoulder."

That was not the best way of addressing the problems in her posts, and again, I apologize.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:55 PM on April 1, 2011


Yeah, and I should have noted that you already apologized for that, too, Kirk. I didn't mean to point at you there.
posted by koeselitz at 3:00 PM on April 1, 2011


Everything else was just basically baggage.

I do see where you're coming from here, but would you say the same if the discussion had been about how to have respectful conversations about, say, sexism and misogyny? What if the thread was about a bunch of women who derailed a perfectly nice thread about Maxim Magazine, for example - would contributions from women who wanted to share the reasons why they might respond angrily to certain comments be at all germane to the discussion? I think it would. You might object to the framing that atheists are akin to feminists, but as a person who is both an atheist and a feminist, I really think they are comparable in this context, especially since both groups are often stereotyped and dismissed as being "too angry" in this sort of discussion.

I will take some responsibility for it, too, since I think I've been part of it.

koeselitz, as long as we're recapping the discussion at this point, I admit that I am still pretty ticked off about your completely ridiculous assertion that all atheists believe that Christianity is inherently hateful. That was actually one of the most offensive and hurtful moments in the entire thread for me, and it depressed the hell out of me because these conversations will never get anywhere if people really believe such pernicious crap about atheists. I hope some of the experiences shared in this thread were at least able to change your mind about that one.
posted by dialetheia at 3:29 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


First of all, I don't know if you intend to do this, but as I'm reading it, you're drawing a distinction here between "art" and "action." [...] Second, it's understandable that ideas and behavior would be conflated. They are essentially the same thing on Metafilter. [...] And in that vacuum, I think it's worth recognizing that there's not really a meaningful difference between uncivil ideas and uncivil acts.

I disagree. I think there is an obvious distinction between speech (which includes art) and action; writing "die John Stamos" on a message board or a canvas is a long, long way from actually harming John Stamos. Likewise, there is an obvious distinction between ideas and behavior on metafilter, unless you truly want to suggest that "I think you're wrong about that, and here's why" and YOU'RE WRONG YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE AND I HOPE YOU DIE ARRRRGH FLAMEOUT are "essentially the same thing". There is a distinction between uncivil ideas and uncivil acts, even on mefi, and people rarely argue differently... except, notably, in this particular case.

Note that all of this avoids the huge can of worms in the middle of the room: who gets to decide which ideas are "uncivil", and according to what metric?

Nobody objected to "the mere idea that there should be a space for anti-Christian art." klangklangston objected to your "mere idea" that Metafilter is a space where "anger, aggression, passion, uncivil behavior, and eye-for-an-eye" should be directed toward Christians instead of making them "comfortable" with the same old "'inclusive' pablum." And he explicitly stated that he had no problem with the idea of spaces for anti-Christian art.

There is the small detail that I wasn't talking about metafilter there, though. I was talking about art scenes. With the exception of a single sentence, nothing klangklangston said was about metafilter (as opposed to "shitty art" and "my favorite bands"), either.

In other words: if people are going to assume you're an asshole, I don't know if I agree that the best thing to do is prove them right. I have a feeling it might be preferable just not to play the game, and to refuse to converse with such people. [...] It's just that I don't think much can be gained from confronting people simply because they seem to have made the unfair assumption that we're confrontational.

I doubt you'd agree with this if it were your beliefs which were overwhelmingly assumed to be confrontational. People don't just "make the unfair assumption that we're confrontational" in a vacuum: there's an obvious element of silencing, here. The idea that the best response to silencing is silence really does "prove them right".
posted by vorfeed at 3:34 PM on April 1, 2011


dialetheia: “koeselitz, as long as we're recapping the discussion at this point, I admit that I am still pretty ticked off about your completely ridiculous assertion that all atheists believe that Christianity is inherently hateful. That was actually one of the most offensive and hurtful moments in the entire thread for me, and it depressed the hell out of me because these conversations will never get anywhere if people really believe such pernicious crap about atheists. I hope some of the experiences shared in this thread were at least able to change your mind about that one.”

I'm sorry, and I guess I really haven't given enough thought to how hurtful that might be. I think I assumed at least that it would be taken as an impersonal thing – after all, I don't mind if people think that Christianity is inherently hateful, and I can even see why they might feel that way. Christians are responsible for a whole lot of death over the years. And if anybody in this thread happens to feel that way, I don't hold it against them, either, for what it's worth.

But that doesn't matter. I mischaracterized atheism as a whole, and that wasn't fair. And frankly it was a head-slapper for me, too – geez, of course all atheists don't believe that. Again, sorry for that blatant and pretty wildly silly mischaracterization.
posted by koeselitz at 3:51 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Once upon a time, I used to hate radical feminism. It has some pretty ugly things to say about men as a class and therefore, me as a person. Defensive reactions by men are perfectly reasonable. When I came across Michael Moorcock's interview with Andrea Dworkin, I had a sudden paradigm shift that maybe I should give it a chance. I can't routinely read radical feminist writing, and I'd never call myself a radical feminist. It is still very negative and there's a bit of bullshit IMO. But setting aside my defensiveness, there's some brilliance to be found in the reasons for that anger.

I'm not arguing that we should be casually insulting to each other. I'm saying we shouldn't use anger and offense as standards here. First because I don't think we can ever reach a consensus as to what they mean. And secondly because sometimes angry and offensive works do have something to say that's worth considering or rejecting with a bit more thought.

The view that I might as well be amoral if there's no afterlife(*) makes me reflexively offended. I also think it's bullshit. But it's weak of me to treat it as bullshit just because I'm personally offended.

(*) Not an opinion expressed here.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:08 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks koeselitz, I appreciate it!
posted by dialetheia at 5:10 PM on April 1, 2011


kirkjobsluder, I don't think that's what the rabbi was saying. In fact, I think he was largely criticizing people who believe in hell (and believe that other people are going there).
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:47 PM on April 1, 2011


> kirkjobsluder, I don't think that's what the rabbi was saying. In fact, I think he was largely criticizing people who believe in hell ...

I think Kirk understood it that way too:

> Since Hirschfield is making what seems to be a religious humanist argument about the moral value of acting as if we have one life to live, secular humanist perspectives and questions strike me as quite appropriate.

Religious Humanism.
posted by nangar at 7:17 PM on April 1, 2011


So, to clarify:

Is Jesus Lord? Or isn't He?
posted by philip-random at 8:04 PM on April 1, 2011


Does Batman just work extra hard or is there something else more subtle going on with him?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:11 PM on April 1, 2011


Many of your questions about Jesus are answered here.
posted by gman at 8:14 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


... and a few here as well.
posted by philip-random at 11:43 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, hi! I found this thread again.

I have this thread to thank for something. Because I/we got sidetracked into a conversation about "is this/isn't this privilege/religious privilege/Christian privilege," I ended up doing a big exploration of this idea of privilege, which kind of took me to a new place, one of rejecting binary ideas of universal privilege/disadvantage, and recognizing that all privilege is contextual, that the very idea of privilege vs. nonprivilege is binary, hierarchical and characteristic of patriarchal and dichotomous divisions of human experience.

As it turns out, it's something Dworkin thought about a long time ago. She casts it in terms of "rank," and posits that all rank is fluid and contextual.

So while it might be true that conventional male masculinity is privileged in a very wide range of contexts, there are definitely contexts, such as, I dunno, a nursing floor in a hospital or a preschool parents group or a fashion magazine staff or a drag show, where it's not privileged.

At the same time, there exist intersections of contexts, such as Congress or a country club, where traditional masculinity is privileged, but also aligned with other characteristics such as personal wealth and economic power, pedigree, network connections and social class are privileged, and the confluence of all of those privileges, reinforced in number and through collective action, becomes a pretty powerful combined social force.

So there can be interlocking systems of privilege just as there are interlocking systems of oppression, and the result of taking a given context and weighing out the privileges vs. the detriments within that context results in a contextual ranking. There can really be no absolute ranking outside of a totalitarian society, but there are certainly widely experienced rankings that build on and benefit from biases developed in our current socialization processes.

So in a re-evaluated consideration of what kinds of privilege are in action in a given situation, the issue really becomes not whether or not a speaker is in a universally privileged group, which is a quite specific phenomenon, but in recognizing and calling out when privilege is applying and not applying, and what kinds of privilege are rewarded and not rewarded in this particular context. In short, "Dichotomous categorizations of privilege diminish an understanding of its intersections, intricacies, and influence. "

I'm willing to say that there is definitely a general Christian privilege in today's US, but I would not extend it to a near-universal religious privilege. There are too many possible exceptions for me to assert that it's always advantageous to be a religious believer in the contemporary United States, because in the dominant political and social culture, only certain forms of belief are ranked high in the privilege architecture, while other forms of belief, from atheism to Islam to paganism, are ranked low and receive little to no privilege. And even though if you run under the vague flag "Christian" you can enjoy certain privileges, such as having your major religious days of observance as holidays from work, once you take "Christianity" as the context you will quickly find that within that context another relative set of rankings exists, in which there are are out-groups who are not welcome or included in some of the experiences enumerated as "Christian privileges." For instance, there are groups who don't worship on Sunday, there are groups who don't observe "Christian" holidays at all, there are Christians who will take up argument against other Christians who display messages communicating critique of the dominant religio-political ethos, Christians who have a seriously hard time finding other members of their denominations when traveling or when trying to coordinate political action based on tenets of faith such as the peace testimony, Christians who will find vocal opposition to their faith-based political stances. There are many instances of privilege, and many exceptions, and all of those are real and worthy of examination, not dismissal.

All of us, regardless of our modifiers, are privileged in some contexts and not in others. Some privileges (gender, class) are closer to universal than others, and some privileges occur in confluence with sets of others that take on a synergistic power. Some of us enjoy more opportunities to identify with privileged classes than others, and have a thicker 'portfolio of privilege,' as it were. We might be unprivileged in the context of dominant generic Christianity in North America, but at the same time privileged by reason of gender, race, class, education, land ownership, inherited wealth, employment status, parental status, etc.

So rather than being about some a priori statement about who has and doesn't have privilege, which would be a binary and generalized approach, the consideration of privilege should be always and entirely contextual, starting from (a) what is the specific context we're examining?, and moving on to (b) who is privileged and who is disenfranchised in this particular context, and how do we recognize that, and how do we then manage the discourse to give voice to those disenfranchised in this particular context and for these particular reasons?

Finally, it makes a lot of sense to look across those contexts and note which classes of people receive frequent or consistent privilege, and recognize the confluences of class, race, color, belief system, education, physique, whatever whatever, that may combine to create a widely shared ideal of a dominant class with privilege. So a really powerful and nuanced conversation does not consist of "shut up, you have privilege," but "here are the components of privilege I ask you to recognize, of which you may have been unaware, and here are the ways I would like to add my voice to the discourse." That voice may request the more privileged members to do more listening and less asserting, or it may ask to privileged by virtue of its rarity, another kind of privilege. And as well, those in positions of privilege in this particular context should certainly be encouraged to acknowledge and recognize their own privilege, to the extent that they're aware of it, or act in good faith to do so once made aware.

So I thank this thread for making me a bit more curious about an idea which, I confess, I have taken at a rather superficial level until this discussion. It was really only by removing "privilege" from a discussion focused on binaries like straight vs. queer, male vs. female, white vs. nonwhite, as categories of universal privilege, that I was able to see the ways in which the general conception of the idea was problematic, and find a more nuanced understanding of the workings of privilege in public, open fora.
posted by Miko at 8:32 PM on April 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Miko, I respect you and I respect that you've taken this opportunity to develop your ideas about privilege, but I don't believe that a nuanced understanding of the concept is a new thing even in this thread. While I really don't want to get back into this discussion, I do want to make it clear that if I think that theism is privileged over atheism generally and (to a lesser but still significant degree) in interactions on this site - and I do - it is not just because the idea of multiple fluid, intermingled privileges has never occurred to me.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:33 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sure it's occurred to you and that's great, but in this discussion few people actually mentioned or explored a specific context when talking about when and where theism might be privileged and when and where atheism might be privileged until I asked about it. Most comments on privilege that I saw just asserted there was theist privilege, and left it at that. To me, that assertion is far too general to carry any real meaning.

I still can't agree that theism is always or even generally privileged as theism itself alone. I see that certain divisions of theists are generally widely privileged in mainstream Western culture, but by no means all or even most, in terms of denomination.
posted by Miko at 8:02 AM on April 5, 2011


Also, I think that if anything, atheism may have been privileged within the specific context of MetaFilter.

I think that because I have seen few challenges to athiests that are challenges of the legitimacy of athiesm itself (as opposed to challenges of direct criticism of theists), but I have seen plenty of unlooked-for challenges from athiests to theists, even ones unprovoked by any overt mention of theism by anyone.

I could be wrong about that, not having combed through the site to form a comprehensive picture of how all of these discussions begin, but it's my impression that MetaFilter generally privileges the same strains of thought and theories of knowledge - rationalism, empiricism, materialism, skepticism - that are foundational to the arguments of atheism.
posted by Miko at 8:09 AM on April 5, 2011


Well now I feel silly. I was going to mention intersectionality ages ago, but I didn't because I didn't want to seem like I was lecturing anyone in an already heated discussion. But it turns out I could have even just dropped a wikipedia link or something and it would have been interesting and useful, not condescending. Note to self: if it's relevant to the conversation, mention it, because everything is new to someone sometime.

Miko, it's the same as when guys come into feminism threads and insist they can't be privileged because they're not Donald Trump or some other wealthy white guy. They may not be privileged in relation to all other men, but their sex does give them a privilege compared to women of the same race and class as they are.

My experience has been that given the same sex, race and class, a theist will be privileged compared to an atheist. Someone belonging to a more privileged type of religion than yourself will still mentally rank you above me in their little heirarchy of "who's better".

Except perhaps on Metafilter and a few other websites, because as you noted we share a common ground of rationalism, etc. I think this is frequently (not always) where the accusations of atheists on MeFi being disrespectful come from - someone who is used to the privilege usually given to religion noticing it's absence here and not being able to account for it.

Now that word looks funny. Privilege. privilege. Huh.
posted by harriet vane at 10:27 PM on April 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


harriet vane: "My experience has been that given the same sex, race and class, a theist will be privileged compared to an atheist."

Because my introduction to privilege on MetaFilter was delivered via invisible backpack metaphor, I've been trying to determine exactly what would be in the super-general theist's invisible backpack. The only thing I can think of is, "People will tend to assume you have some set of codified morals." What else would go in there?
posted by charred husk at 9:31 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"People will tend to assume you have some set of codified morals." What else would go in there?

Maybe just a governing sense of humility. A "good" theist is aware that any sense of personal significance that he/she may have comes via that god-spirit-force-intelligence-governing-principle that they BELIEVE orders the universe. Far from being driven to arrogance by it, I would imagine it making them very, very humble ...

Which I imagine is where much of the hurt comes from in these threads. A few embittered non-theists come in swinging, imagining all the True Believer nimrods they've had to deal with in their lives, but they end up cold-cocking some pretty benign and peaceful "neighbors" who've never really done them any harm.
posted by philip-random at 9:44 AM on April 6, 2011


Right. This persistent characterisation of atheists as boorish bringers of indiscriminate rage, this repeated laying at our feet of all the badness of all these discussions, this instinctual conviction that no matter the content of the original post or the "enthusiasm" with which theists engage us, atheists just obsessively and single-handedly derail all religious discussions... is a slap in the face to all the atheists here who presented themselves meekly, conducted themselves graciously, and explained themselves with incredible serenity, at incredible length (though that too is apparently offensive). Especially when it's all done, as it so often is, in that conspicuously reasonable way, as though the writer were only making a professional assessment of the situation, and had some sort of special insight into where we were coming from and why we almost couldn't help being so very bad.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:52 AM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I actually tried to press stop right after I hit post there, but I was too slow. I'm really sorry I posted that. Not because I don't think it, exactly, but because this thread was sort of over and that was a good thing. So, sorry - please ignore me.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:59 AM on April 6, 2011


Because my introduction to privilege on MetaFilter was delivered via invisible backpack metaphor, I've been trying to determine exactly what would be in the super-general theist's invisible backpack. The only thing I can think of is, "People will tend to assume you have some set of codified morals." What else would go in there?

Well, part of what goes in there is the widespread assumption that disagreeing with you and/or disliking your beliefs counts as an "uncivil idea". There's a very common feeling that people should not be allowed to speak against "super-general theism", or to claim that it is (or even could be!) generally bad, or even to make too much noise about not believing in it. The idea that everyone everywhere must acknowledge the innate goodness of religious beliefs or be labeled "uncivil" is privilege if I've ever seen it.

See also two or three cars parked under the stars' post: "that too is apparently offensive" just about sums it up.
posted by vorfeed at 12:31 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I think this is frequently (not always) where the accusations of atheists on MeFi being disrespectful come from - someone who is used to the privilege usually given to religion noticing it's absence here and not being able to account for it.

No, a lot of it comes from atheists like me who are fed up with the childish (and often utterly ignorant) belligerence of some of their fellow atheists.

> This persistent characterisation of atheists as boorish bringers of indiscriminate rage, this repeated laying at our feet of all the badness of all these discussions, this instinctual conviction that no matter the content of the original post or the "enthusiasm" with which theists engage us, atheists just obsessively and single-handedly derail all religious discussions... is a slap in the face to all the atheists here who presented themselves meekly, conducted themselves graciously, and explained themselves with incredible serenity, at incredible length (though that too is apparently offensive).

No it's not. If you're not a boorish bringer of indiscriminate rage, it's not directed at you. If you think there are no boorish bringers of indiscriminate rage around here, boy have you got blinders on.
posted by languagehat at 12:45 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"is a slap in the face to all the atheists here who presented themselves meekly, conducted themselves graciously, and explained themselves with incredible serenity, at incredible length (though that too is apparently offensive)."

Y'know what? That's the exact same fucking complaint that the "theists" have.

And you know something else? The vast majority of criticisms of religion or theism aren't attacked.

I know because I've made a lot of them.

"Well, part of what goes in there is the widespread assumption that disagreeing with you and/or disliking your beliefs counts as an "uncivil idea"."

That's flat-out bullshit and something you assert again and again without providing a shred of proof.

"The idea that everyone everywhere must acknowledge the innate goodness of religious beliefs or be labeled "uncivil" is privilege if I've ever seen it."

But you haven't seen it, because that's simply not true. There are so many criticisms of religion here that it beggers the imagination to pretend that people have to "acknowledge the innate goodness of religious beliefs" or be labelled uncivil. It shows such a stunning lack of perspective that you think this is the general mode of discourse here, and it's such a question-begging construction that if you have any pretense toward rationality or strength of argument that you should be ashamed of proffering it.

I criticize religion all the time. I do not acknowledge an innate goodness of religious beliefs. I have never been called uncivil, save by you when you couldn't come up with a rebuttal to my comment earlier and wanted to hypocritically retreat to the sanctuary of politeness.

Is the theist privilege you're seeking the one where people are simply allowed to make up whatever they want and have it be true?
posted by klangklangston at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2011


vorfeed, I agree that many so-called theists in our culture espouse the kinds of beliefs you've just outlined here. But I don't see it much on MetaFilter. In fact, I don't believe I've ever come across as many humble, thoughtful, polite believers as I have at Metafilter. I've only been involved here for two plus years so maybe things were different in the past. But nowadays, it seems that if you've got strong religious beliefs, you quickly learn to present them very carefully. I guess, what the theists would really like is for the non-theists to play by the same rules.
posted by philip-random at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, thanks, languagehat and klangklangston, because you've led me to have kind of an epiphany about why the discourse around a/theism on Metafilter bothers me so much. It's actually not that atheists are falsely accused of being assholes here, because in fact a lot of us totally are assholes. It's just that religion is one of the few things on this site that it's somehow a crime to be an asshole about. And even those of us who are frequently incredibly rude about a lot of other things that people take very seriously and hold very dear somehow manage to adopt an attitude of self-righteous civility when it comes to the man who may or may not be upstairs.

And it's hard to defend against those accusations of indecorousness, because it's not like they're baseless in the context of like, human decency or anything. They just seem a little suspect in the context of this site. Is atheism just not cool enough any more?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:18 PM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have never been called uncivil, save by you when you couldn't come up with a rebuttal to my comment earlier and wanted to hypocritically retreat to the sanctuary of politeness.

Now there is an example of "making up whatever you want and having it be true".

And, again, I'm not "hypocritically retreating to the sanctuary of politeness". I am pretty much always polite on metafilter. The comments you chose to insult me over were polite, and I have been polite in the face of those insults, too.

You don't like my opinions about art or religion, apparently, but that does not make me uncivil, impolite, or "a fucking asshole", save perhaps within your own mind.

That's flat-out bullshit and something you assert again and again without providing a shred of proof.

I did not say that atheists are always, invariably called uncivil when they criticize religion. I said "There's a very common feeling that people should not be allowed to speak against super-general theism, or to claim that it is (or even could be!) generally bad, or even to make too much noise about not believing in it", and that "the idea that everyone everywhere must acknowledge the innate goodness of religious beliefs or be labeled uncivil is privilege". Given what happens over and over in these threads, I'm not sure what more "proof" I need that this idea exists and is commonly held, even on metafilter.
posted by vorfeed at 1:29 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's just that religion is one of the few things on this site that it's somehow a crime to be an asshole about. And even those of us who are frequently incredibly rude about a lot of other things that people take very seriously and hold very dear somehow manage to adopt an attitude of self-righteous civility when it comes to the man who may or may not be upstairs.

I feel like I end up saying something like this in every metatalk thread that turns to the atheism/theism divide on metafilter, but, well: most of the atheists and most of the theists on metafilter are seemingly really pretty okay with each other and do a good job of not getting in fights about beliefs. The default state here is basically being okay with, and civil to each other about, differing religious perspectives.

We have a few people on the site who tend to get shirty about religion more or less without prompting, and that sucks. We have a few people on the site who tend likewise to get up to unprovoked shirtiness about atheism, and that sucks too. The big problem here is that once someone starts getting shirty, some more folks feel provoked and an argument bigger than just those few Ur-shirties breaks out, people get upset about being implicated in some unfair or overbroad generalization, feelings get hurt, etc.

And if you're an atheist, what you're likely to get out of this is that people are being, or being allowed to be, jerkish about atheism, because it hits home that someone's being unfair in some way about your view of the world. If you're a theist, you're likely to notice people being jerkish about religion, with similar effect. It sucks in both directions, it's understandable to feel like you're getting crapped on.

But it's not a "religion is protected, atheists are out in the cold" thing here, any more than vice versa. I'd say if anything it goes stronger in the other direction, but short of quantifying that somehow I think it's more useful to just recognize that what we're talking about here is grumpy or jerkish outliers (whether people who make a habit of it or people having a one-off bad day or poor presentation) being jerks about things that have strong opinions about, not about anything like a site sanction for one side or the other, or a tendency of people in general here to be uncivil or unreasonable jerks.

We've seen I don't know how many complaints in both directions over the years, people telling us that we're coddling religion or that we're letting atheists be jerks or so on, totally contradictory stances that Something Must Be Done or whatever sometimes even from the same thread or argument. We've had to try and steer or contain a whole lot of arguments about religion and religious beliefs and the intersection of that with metafilter discussions.

It's charged, complicated stuff, and mostly what I'd like is for the one percenters on either end of that spectrum to try more often and more promptly to give it in a rest instead of getting into or perpetuating another argument or escalation, so the big bulk of the membership doesn't have to have threads go to crap and so that we as mods don't have to babysit yet another shouting match just because the topic of religion, or a lack thereof, somehow touches tangentially a post or comment.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:44 PM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


cortex: "I feel like I end up saying something like this in every metatalk thread that turns to the atheism/theism divide on metafilter, "

That's funny. I was just about to quote your comment here. :)
posted by zarq at 1:49 PM on April 6, 2011


vorfeed: "Well, part of what goes in there is the widespread assumption that disagreeing with you and/or disliking your beliefs counts as an "uncivil idea.""

I'm gonna have to go with vorfeed on this one in as far as what goes in the backpack. An accurate critique of theism in general is a critique of any one person's faith. This makes people sensitive really quick, if just because of the intense connection between religion and culture that tends to exist. The general critique becomes the personal attack and things get ugly. I'd like to add that simply saying that you're an atheist is considered an attack by the more sensitive since it implies that you have a disagreement with underlying assumptions of the status quo.

(Note that this item in the backpack isn't meant to explain why MetaFilter discussions end up the way they do. I'm honestly trying to suss out what specific sort of privilege being a general theist has in ways that I can understand.)
posted by charred husk at 2:04 PM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Now there is an example of "making up whatever you want and having it be true"."

I must have missed your actual rebuttal, since in scrolling up through the thread, all I can see is a complaint over the tone. Perhaps you meant to put together a cogent argument but forgot to post it?

So, no, it's not really making things up.

"You don't like my opinions about art or religion, apparently, but that does not make me uncivil, impolite, or "a fucking asshole", save perhaps within your own mind."

While no doubt you were deeply wounded by the terrible words "fucking asshole," if you used your God-given abilities to parse a sentence, you would have realized that the context was saying that because you (general you) have had a bad experience with religion does not give you the right to act like a "fucking asshole all the time." If you require me to grant you such good faith in your arguments that vague allusions stand in for proof, you should also treat mine with the same delicacy. Or are you saying that being treated poorly gives you the right to act like an asshole? Because if you agree with that sentiment — and disagree with mine — it'd be nice if you actually wrote that out instead of trying to dance around it by pretending it was an insult to atheists rather than an insult to assholes. Which is why I used words like "hypocritical," in that you seem to believe that atheists can't be assholes and it's only us big mean "theists" that paint everyone with that brush.

"I said "There's a very common feeling that people should not be allowed to speak against super-general theism, or to claim that it is (or even could be!) generally bad, or even to make too much noise about not believing in it","

Those links do not support your contention that the feeling is very common, at least within the discourse of MetaFilter, no more than linking to MeTa complaints about relationship-filter (of which there are many) would support the idea that it was a very common feeling that people should not be allowed to ask relationship questions. Your sample is fucked, and that's leaving aside the fact that absolutely no one has ever said that people should not be allowed to "speak against super-general theism." You presume that your interlocutors are making the same mistakes that you are — that they disagree with your point of view is not saying that you should not be entitled to it, and likewise, that they disagree with the appropriateness of the remarks in context does not meant that they do not believe they would be appropriate in other contexts. I would wager this is compounded by a confirmation bias on your part, in that when criticisms of religion are appropriate, they tend to go unremarked upon (or even favorited).

Likewise: ""the idea that everyone everywhere must acknowledge the innate goodness of religious beliefs or be labeled uncivil is privilege," as that idea is not at all prevalent, your argument of this being an example of privilege is clearly false upon its face — people do not need to acknowledge the "innate goodness of religious beliefs" or be labelled uncivil; that people are labelled uncivil has more to do with them presenting their beliefs without civility (which, as an aside, shouldn't be rendered as synonymous with politeness).

You're presenting a plainly bad syllogism where one of the premises is invalid, and then waving your hands around when confronted and retreating to weasel words about "general feelings" when you're confronted on it.
posted by klangklangston at 2:10 PM on April 6, 2011


"An accurate critique of theism in general is a critique of any one person's faith. This makes people sensitive really quick, if just because of the intense connection between religion and culture that tends to exist. The general critique becomes the personal attack and things get ugly."

Except that an accurate critique of theism in general isn't the problem.

It's inaccurate critiques of theism in general that get me shirty. Accurate critiques of theism in general are like accurate critiques of "free will" in general — they're likely right, ultimately unprovable and a poor predictor for people's personal actions. It's the last one especially that when people try to generalize from, they're almost always working with a terrible sample and projecting all sorts of personal bias onto.
posted by klangklangston at 2:15 PM on April 6, 2011


So, no, it's not really making things up.

Yes, it is. You said you hadn't been called uncivil except by me. I pointed out where you had, in fact, been called uncivil by someone other than me.

As for "I must have missed your actual rebuttal, since in scrolling up through the thread, all I can see is a complaint over the tone", you must have missed this actual rebuttal, which was not a complaint about tone.

Or are you saying that being treated poorly gives you the right to act like an asshole? Because if you agree with that sentiment — and disagree with mine — it'd be nice if you actually wrote that out instead of trying to dance around it by pretending it was an insult to atheists rather than an insult to assholes.

Like I said before, disagreeing with you about the value of "anger, aggression and 'uncivil', 'eye-for-an-eye' shit" and/or anti-religious sentiment in art is not actually equivalent to "acting like an asshole". I think that's all that needs to be said about this. You're basically asking me when I stopped beating my wife, here, and I'm not going to give that "argument" any more respect than it deserves.

Your sample is fucked, and that's leaving aside the fact that absolutely no one has ever said that people should not be allowed to "speak against super-general theism." [...] that they disagree with the appropriateness of the remarks in context does not meant that they do not believe they would be appropriate in other contexts.

Several people have said that they believe it is not possible to be against religion in general in a nuanced or non-ignorant manner, regardless of context.

As for "absolutely no one has ever said that people should not be allowed to 'speak against super-general theism'", there was this:

Why is "anti-religious rhetoric" a problem at all?
I don't see why intolerance should ever be considered acceptable, just because it's currently unpopular.

posted by vorfeed at 3:37 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


vorfeed: “Several people have said that they believe it is not possible to be against religion in general in a nuanced or non-ignorant manner, regardless of context.”

I'm sorry, vorfeed, but your examples here are really not very good for showing what you seem to think they show. Earlier you adduced the thread about uncanny hengeman's weird poke at zarq's Jewishness as an example of anti-atheist bias; now you're saying that when someone says you're being "intolerant," that's them saying it's not possible to be against religion in general in a nuanced or non-ignorant manner?
posted by koeselitz at 3:49 PM on April 6, 2011


now you're saying that when someone says you're being "intolerant," that's them saying it's not possible to be against religion in general in a nuanced or non-ignorant manner?

If you read that thread, it's pretty obvious that that is their argument. Perhaps I should have linked to "calling all religion inherently bad is an ignorant statement" instead?
posted by vorfeed at 3:55 PM on April 6, 2011


What you are implying was not what I meant, and I believe you're aware of that. I've said quite a bit on MeFi about tone and the problems inherent to what I believe are intellectually lazy, inappropriately over-arching attacks and stereotypes. Which you are also aware of and have previously commented on.

As I have pointed out numerous times in multiple MeTa threads, I have no problem with anyone making specific complaints about religious oppression, dominionism or privilege. I have and will continue to speak out here about such things here. I did so in this thread, the post on the Blue that spawned it and in several other threads you linked to.

I grow uncomfortable when specific complaints become generalized to the point of inaccuracy. Which was the reasoning behind this comment in the uncanny hegemon thread you linked to.
posted by zarq at 4:01 PM on April 6, 2011


koeselitz: " Earlier you adduced the thread about uncanny hengeman's weird poke at zarq's Jewishness as an example of anti-atheist bias;"

I was under the impression that vorfeed's complaint about that thread was not uncanny's or my contributions to it, but rather the events that unfolded there after valkryn complained about bardic's axe-grinding.
posted by zarq at 4:03 PM on April 6, 2011


Correction: his name is actually uncanny hengeman, not uncanny hegemon. My mistake.
posted by zarq at 4:08 PM on April 6, 2011


At any rate, I see little point in this exercise -- we can go back and forth all day with "here's an example", "nuh-uh no it isn't", as cortex pointed out.

I've said enough about this, at this point; if anyone really needs an explanation of why the "civility" argument is often an expression of privilege and/or why it's a double-standard to ask minorities to "treat everyone with respect", see here and here.
posted by vorfeed at 4:09 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


vorfeed: “Perhaps I should have linked to "calling all religion inherently bad is an ignorant statement" instead?”

You mean: "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."

You're seriously eliding things here – and you're seriously mistaken if you believe that girih knot's argument in that thread was anything more than an extreme minority view.

zarq: “I was under the impression that vorfeed's complaint about that thread was not uncanny's or my contributions to it, but rather the events that unfolded there after valkryn complained about bardic's axe-grinding.”

Thanks. Having read the thread, it seems the same to me. cortex is right; people are on the whole treated pretty well on metafilter, with that skewing maybe slightly in favor of the atheists (simply because there are more atheists here) but probably not noticeably in most contexts – the only problems are minor situations caused by outliers on both sides.
posted by koeselitz at 4:11 PM on April 6, 2011


koeselitz, I tend to agree.

I'm trying to keep this and other comments he and jessamyn have made in mind when participating in these threads. It's made the experience more enjoyable. Mostly, anyway. Well, it's keeping my blood pressure down.

One more thing. I've bantered back and forth a lot with vorfeed over the last couple of years about religion, atheism and tone in difficult threads like this one. I could be wrong, but I don't think she's ever been rude to me. Or launched a personal attack against me. Even when rudeness and attacks between Mefites seemed to fill the whole thread. And even when I was the source of some of it.

I disagree with her more often than not. But I do respect her for that.
posted by zarq at 4:39 PM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks, zarq. I appreciate that. The same goes for me -- I don't agree with you on this particular topic, but I certainly do respect the fact that you're decent about it.
posted by vorfeed at 5:02 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


"you must have missed this actual rebuttal, which was not a complaint about tone."

It also wasn't an actual rebuttal. It was more unfounded assertions about how being uncivil didn't make you an asshole.

"Like I said before, disagreeing with you about the value of "anger, aggression and 'uncivil', 'eye-for-an-eye' shit" and/or anti-religious sentiment in art is not actually equivalent to "acting like an asshole"."

Like I said before, arguing that "anger, aggression and 'uncivil,' 'eye-for-an-eye' shit" is inherently valuable encourages asshole behavior, and then I pointed out that you had misrepresented my argument and missed the point in a scramble to play the martyr.

"Several people have said that they believe it is not possible to be against religion in general in a nuanced or non-ignorant manner, regardless of context. "

Are you constitutionally unable to represent people's arguments honestly? I find your continued misrepresentations to be far more uncivil than dropping the word bullshit, but apparently in your sense of discourse, cussing is more damaging than lying about what people said. It's one of the most frustrating things about your participation here, the constant conflation of your opponents arguments into these sweeping statements that represent your special snowflake persecution.

"If you read that thread, it's pretty obvious that that is their argument. Perhaps I should have linked to "calling all religion inherently bad is an ignorant statement" instead?"

First off, it's not at all obvious that's their argument. Second off, making the argument that all religion is inherently bad is a terrible argument for so many reasons that only an ideologue or someone with no concept of how things are proven with logic wouldn't immediately grasp it.

You want to bulwark yourself with your general minority status, outside of this community, fine — it's just as ignorant to say that all religion is inherently bad as it is to say that all white people are inherently bad, even if it's a black person saying it. It requires so many chains of assumptions, thin justifications and biases that it's essentially empty and circular.

And the grim thing is that I know you'll read that and see me not saying that your specific views are ignorant and illogical, but somehow conflate that into an attack on all atheists again.

But an accurate critique of religion is not "Religion is bad," unless we devalue the word "critique" so as to be meaningless, and I don't see any reason to protect meaningless comments from being called meaningless.
posted by klangklangston at 5:29 PM on April 6, 2011


Your entire argument, from start to finish, seems to be "you're an asshole, you're lying and misrepresenting, your arguments are terrible and your views are illogical and ignorant... and you're being deliberately uncivil because you won't agree that you suck!" All because I don't share your own personal judgments about art, religion, civility, and the general meaning of people's comments.

The problem is, these judgments are not universal. That's what I was getting at with my rebuttal. You have not demonstrated that "arguing that "anger, aggression and 'uncivil,' 'eye-for-an-eye' shit" is inherently valuable encourages asshole behavior" -- you've simply asserted it as fact. I've repeatedly pointed out that I do not agree, and that there is no reason to accept your assertion, especially with regards to art, but your only reply is to repeat the same tautological refrain about how "being uncivil makes you an asshole"... and even though several different people have pointed out that I am not being uncivil, you continue to insist that I am.

Well, good for you. You have not backed up anything you've said with examples, reasons, or anything else, to the point where your argument is just a collection of personal attacks and value judgments... so there's not much left to say to you, other than the obvious.

Like I said in the beginning, your rhetoric says much more about you than it does about me.
posted by vorfeed at 6:48 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Your entire argument, from start to finish, seems to be "you're an asshole, you're lying and misrepresenting, your arguments are terrible and your views are illogical and ignorant... and you're being deliberately uncivil because you won't agree that you suck!" All because I don't share your own personal judgments about art, religion, civility, and the general meaning of people's comments."

Except that's not an accurate representation at all. It's another attempt to present me in bad faith rather than actually responding to what I wrote.

I have not once called you an asshole. I have said that you're misrepresenting people's comments, because you are, and this misrepresentation of what I've said backs that up. Likewise, I said that you were uncivil… for misrepresenting people's arguments, especially while hiding behind a defense of politeness. It's manipulative and toxic.

And it's not because you don't share my personal judgments, it's because misrepresenting what people said as if it were an attack on atheists in general, especially as a justification for "uncivil" behavior, is unfair and, again, toxic toward any sort of reasonable conversation.

"That's what I was getting at with my rebuttal. You have not demonstrated that "arguing that "anger, aggression and 'uncivil,' 'eye-for-an-eye' shit" is inherently valuable encourages asshole behavior" -- you've simply asserted it as fact."

Encouraging uncivil behavior (which is included in arguing that it's inherently valuable) without putting strong demarkations regarding the content, which you have not, encourages asshole behavior. All asshole behavior is uncivil; encouraging the whole of uncivil behavior also encourages the subset of asshole behavior — asshole is mostly marked from merely uncivil by context. QED.

Arguing contrary takes semantic gymanstics and special pleading regarding assholery; that some assholery is subjective does not mean that encouraging uncivil behavior in general does not thereby encourage asshole behavior.

"Well, good for you. You have not backed up anything you've said with examples, reasons, or anything else, to the point where your argument is just a collection of personal attacks and value judgments... so there's not much left to say to you, other than the obvious. "

I'm sorry, that's just not true. They may be reasons you disagree with, but the majority of my statements haven't included attacks on your person, but rather attacks on your weak, sloppy arguments and continued misrepresentation of the discussions here on MetaFilter. And they're not just my opinions, though I've been probably the most forceful in their presentation. Attempting to make this all about me is poor, ad hominem reasoning.
posted by klangklangston at 8:38 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


1) It's a good an important discussion and all, but what does this have to do with Universalism, cheerful atheist participation in a community Christmas parade, or a government apology to Alan Turing, to name three discussions that were derailed to a discussion of atheist incivility?

2) It certainly is the case that atheists are accused of near-universal rudeness in almost every thread where it comes up. Granted, those people are not participating in this discussion, but it would be nice to see gjc's contribution called to task for prejudicial generalizations rather than a denial that it's not a feature of the conflict here on metafilter.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:26 AM on April 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've come to the realization this morning that the state of the discussion, not just here on metafilter but everywhere, has produced a deep-seated prejudice bordering on bigotry when it comes to religious liberals, agnostics, and my fellow "accomodationist" atheists. And I find that deeply depressing.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:48 AM on April 7, 2011


What? gjc's contribution was correct; that's the difficulty. Because gjc wasn't saying "all atheists do this!" but rather "this seems to be a general human tendency, and it's worth resisting that tendency."

And that's my own conclusion at the end of the day. We can keep going back and forth here about how in this situation people were characterizing atheists as hostile or in that situation people were characterizing theists as overprivileged assholes who force their opinions on others; but the fact is, for every thread where atheists get blamed for aggression, there's a thread where religious people get accused of forcing their opinions on other people.

And of course neither of us believe that happens in an equal proportion. I personally remember vividly all the times when a normal discussion of religious things has been disrupted by a loud declaration that religion has always been poisonous, pernicious, and despicable. And I have accepted that, because the price of being in the minority here (religious people are surely in the minority on Metafilter) is having unpopular opinions. However, it's natural that, when we start to talk about this problem, as we are here, I'm going to uage strong feelings.

However, what I'm trying to do now is be openminded and listen a bit to the concerns of vorfeed and others. I've always just dismissed the idea of religious privilege on Metafilter as ridiculous, given that religious people are in the minority. But white people are in the minority in South Africa, too; and it's hard to dismiss the individual experiences people are describing.

vorfeed has described, over and over again, the feeling of being an atheist and being dismissed as "angry" or "assholish." I have a parallel experience: that of being implicitly and even explicitly labeled as an oppressor, as a crude, superstitious and moralistic self-righteous boor, simply because I am a religious person. What's interesting is that these two parallel experiences tend to play off of one another; when I feel like I'm being implicitly accused of taking part in oppression, I react with an annoyed counter-accusation that an atheist is being an asshole again. I could certainly learn to try not to do that, or at least to be conscious of the unfortunate interplay there. I don't know if that happens in reverse - if atheists who feel a bit stung by implicates accusations of fightiness sometimes tend to react with counter-accusations of religious oppression - but it seems possible.

Either way, it seems funny to me that the common experience here is apparently that none of us like the way we've been characterized as self righteous assholes. Nobody enjoys being labeled that way. Maybe that's oversimplifying the situation, but I get the feeling that unpleasant sensation is behind a lot of the reactions here.
posted by koeselitz at 8:48 AM on April 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


(religious people are surely in the minority on Metafilter)

I don't think that's true. I think we're the majority, if you take all members, and probably near-as-dammit half of the more participatory members. When you're used to being 95% of the population, being just 60% can feel uncomfortable, but it's not the same as being a minority.
posted by KathrynT at 9:42 AM on April 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


but it would be nice to see gjc's contribution called to task for prejudicial generalizations rather than a denial that it's not a feature of the conflict here on metafilter.

Koeselitz has already voiced my feelings about this. But I think it's also worth pointing out that that comment was very much called to task in the original thread. And if you want to get all competitive/statistical about it, it didn't score a single favorite (until I just gave it one) whereas many of its counter comments did. So yeah, I'm not feeling that the anti-theist crowd were getting trounced over there.

As for gjc's comment itself, I think it's a classic example of provocation followed by rationalization. That is, it starts out strong (arguably combative) but it quickly softens and finds a way to implicate all parties in assholism ... which is maybe not what most of us want to hear. Speaking of which ...

I've come to the realization this morning that the state of the discussion, not just here on metafilter but everywhere, has produced a deep-seated prejudice bordering on bigotry when it comes to religious liberals, agnostics, and my fellow "accomodationist" atheists. And I find that deeply depressing.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:48 AM


Nicely (and sadly) put. It's not people's beliefs and ideas that generally offend me, it's the relative level of extremism with which they're argued. Or more to the point (which I've made many times before on this site), the more CONVINCED someone is that they are RIGHT, the more likely that someone gets hurt.
posted by philip-random at 10:23 AM on April 7, 2011


koeselitz: Look at gjc's post from my perspective. It comes in near the end of a thread in which some atheists were judgmental, while others were engaged in good faith dialog. It opens with two unqualified generalizations, proceeds with utter cliche of an analogy to television evangelism, and concludes with some "why can't we all get along" pablum.

This is exactly the sort of thing you apologized for earlier.

We can keep going back and forth here about how in this situation people were characterizing atheists as hostile or in that situation people were characterizing theists as overprivileged assholes who force their opinions on others; but the fact is, for every thread where atheists get blamed for aggression, there's a thread where religious people get accused of forcing their opinions on other people.

I'll say it happens in every thread. In fact, I'll pose a variant of Godwin's law around both claims. I certainly share the same motivation as Godwin that prejudicial statements about atheists and theists have become something of a discursive hand grenade that destroys discussions.

And here's the bottom line for me. After 397 posts in that other thread, and 662 posts in this thread, I still know next to nothing about your opinion on Universalism, the topic of that FPP. We're can't have discussions about topics like Universalism without a consensus to treat certain forms of argumentation about religion as tired, old, and off-topic.

So I'm sitting on questions about Reese winning the Templeton and the Courtyard of the Gentiles conference, and I see no point in developing them for metafilter. That's my assessment on how bad things are.

I don't know if that happens in reverse - if atheists who feel a bit stung by implicates accusations of fightiness sometimes tend to react with counter-accusations of religious oppression - but it seems possible.

It's certainly the case with me. Although again, my prejudice is that "moderates" in this discussion are routinely acting in bad faith by preferring to scold than share. Peter Aletheias stands out at the champion over there.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:20 AM on April 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


phillip-random: As for gjc's comment itself, I think it's a classic example of provocation followed by rationalization.

The extremely weak rationalization doesn't reduce the offense of the provocation. And if the goal is reducing uncivil behavior, perhaps we shouldn't be using rhetorical questions that imply that many or most atheists are assholes?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:40 AM on April 7, 2011


In before comment #666!
posted by jtron at 11:50 AM on April 7, 2011


Shiiiiiiiiiit.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:51 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ha.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:47 PM on April 7, 2011


Well, we're all neighbors of the Beast this deep in the thread.
posted by philip-random at 2:02 PM on April 7, 2011


The Beast is very close indeed.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:18 PM on April 7, 2011


Maybe just a governing sense of humility. A "good" theist is aware that any sense of personal significance that he/she may have comes via that god-spirit-force-intelligence-governing-principle that they BELIEVE orders the universe. Far from being driven to arrogance by it, I would imagine it making them very, very humble ...

Charred Husk was asking about the privileges given to common-denominator super-general theists by society, not the personal qualities of True Scotsman religious people.

My own feeling is that it'd contain not "you have a set of codified morals" but "you have morals". The number of times atheists are accused or suspected of being immoral or having no standards (not on MeFi, out in the world) is really amazing. I might put "your morals match mine" in the backpack too - it's not that it's true, but that religious people who recognise someone as fitting into that super-general category too, often won't ask enough questions to find out if there is a difference or not (unless/until some event makes a difference visible). They just assume that the morality of people like them will be the same as their own. Particularly if they're part of the majority religion in a given area, they're often not aware of the differences between their beliefs and some of the minor religions they might encounter in everyday life.
posted by harriet vane at 9:06 AM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm just reviving a dead horse here, aren't I? Sorry. Will let it lie now.
posted by harriet vane at 9:10 AM on April 8, 2011


I am now imagining a horse wearing a DNR bracelet, so that's something at least.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:00 AM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


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