Insulting Comments on Minority Beliefs June 19, 2015 12:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm not sure if this is the right way to go about this, but I wanted to express that I'm pretty shocked at this thread on Etsy banning Wiccan items going on right now.

The vast majority of comments are really insulting towards Wiccans. I'm not one myself at all, but I really don't think the thread would have gone the same way if Etsy had banned Muslim or Sikh or Buddhist items. I'm also very surprised that the mods haven't stepped in yet. Is this kind of behavior towards less mainstream beliefs really okay?
posted by Sangermaine to Etiquette/Policy at 12:58 PM (328 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Thankfully, Cortex out a comment in just now asking people to cool it with Wicca jokes, and I will move my Wicker Man jokes to whatever other thread I can.
posted by maxsparber at 1:02 PM on June 19, 2015


Some people have been kinda crappy in there, yeah; just left a note and it'd be good if folks could cut that out in there and in the future.

I'm also very surprised that the mods haven't stepped in yet.

There had been almost no flagging in that thread until a few minutes ago, when someone else also dropped me a line about it; it just plain wasn't on my radar, with the other more obviously attention-needing stuff going on on the site. Always okay to drop us a line to say "hey, do you know what's going on in this thread" before concluding that we do and just don't care.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:02 PM on June 19, 2015 [10 favorites]


Is it possible to create a mechanism for that? There were just too many posts that needed flagging, and I was thinking of flagging the post to call attention to it, but there's nothing wrong with the post itself. Maybe a new item in the post flagging drop down along the lines of "A number of objectionable comments"?
posted by Sangermaine at 1:10 PM on June 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


By the same token, it was disappointing that this drive-by comment in the Ramdan thread wasn't deleted. I've seen tons more thoughtful comments get deleted in music threads and the other fluff.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:11 PM on June 19, 2015 [9 favorites]


I am also pretty disappointed in the lulz drowning out what could have been an interesting conversation about discriminatory attitudes towards non-western mainstream religious beliefs, practice, and how those carry over onto the internet.
posted by ApathyGirl at 1:21 PM on June 19, 2015 [13 favorites]


Is it possible to create a mechanism for that?

Dropping us a quick note at the contact form is the traditional mechanism, and it really does work very well in general. We're continuing to think about possible flagging process tweaks long-term but in the mean time, flag a couple things if you see them and/or drop us a note if it's a more complicated "there's sort of a situation in this thread" kind of deal.

Folks sometimes express concern about not wanting to bother us with a contact form note or similar reticence, and I just want to take this as another opportunity to say: don't worry about bothering us. Write us a note, it helps and it's not bother.

By the same token, it was disappointing that this drive-by comment in the Ramdan thread wasn't deleted.

I had misgivings about that and seriously considered deleting it, but I thought people's responses were good, and it was sufficiently short that I wasn't sure what they were going for so I left a note instead. I don't really disagree with you on the general thrust of that, I just ended up going with note instead of deletion in that case.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:22 PM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


On my end the flagging went really well. I started flagging and moments later Cortex dropped his warning.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 1:27 PM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


that sucks. people should not do that. also all the jokes aren't funny (sorry)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:32 PM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


to be clear, if people are exploiting religious / spiritual magic believers, then yeah, make fun of them, but just making fun of people who believe stupid stuff is not really cool or interesting IMO. I mean, if you have any religious beliefs at all it's a very glass-houses kind of thing
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:36 PM on June 19, 2015 [9 favorites]


I would have thought the Wiccan tradition of secrecy was a bit dated in this day and age, but apparently not.
The Burning Times are not only an historical oddity; they're part of our enduring cultural heritage. McCarthyism was a product of this century. The fundamentalist "religious right" is alive and well today. In Canada and the USA, and in this decade, Witches have lost their jobs, their friends, and the custody of their children because their religious affiliation became known. This is serious stuff.
posted by Little Dawn at 1:41 PM on June 19, 2015 [8 favorites]



I am also pretty disappointed in the lulz drowning out what could have been an interesting conversation about discriminatory attitudes towards non-western mainstream religious beliefs, practice, and how those carry over onto the internet.

Why "non western" only? The thing with Wicca is that it was assembled relatively recently from an assortment of western sources. Can we only talk about sexism and classism if the targets are non-western? What's interesting to me is that it's apparently fine to be misogynistic for [++++ favorites] if the targets are imagined to be middle-aged, lower-class white women.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:46 PM on June 19, 2015 [14 favorites]


They meant that wicca is not in the western mainstream, which is inarguably the case.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:47 PM on June 19, 2015


The jokes all seem fairly tame to me? Like, mefi is reliably full of people who get very turgid about their atheism, and that's tiresome in a Teen Redditor At Thanksgiving kind of way, but it seems like the amount of LOL INVISIBLE LOVE SPELL in that thread is roughly on par with or lower than LOL INVISIBLE SKY WIZARD that pops up a little in christian threads.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:48 PM on June 19, 2015 [31 favorites]


Well, and I think the relative mildness of it is why this didn't turn into a great big pile of flags a lot quicker; on the other hand, I pretty much delete actual LOL SKY WIZARD comments on sight at this point as well. People being dickish for no good reason are still being dickish for no good reason even if it's a low grade sort of thing, basically.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:50 PM on June 19, 2015 [15 favorites]


As a bit of frame-of-reference: I had the misfortune of joining in with my community to clean the soot, gasoline stink and destroyed vestments from my former temple after it was firebombed several years back. Yeah, "the burning times" have never really ended.

Weird as it might seem if you haven't been there yourself, some people get real uptight and violent when they hear there're some folks doing badweird secret stuff up the street and that it could involve nudity or satan or something.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 1:55 PM on June 19, 2015 [20 favorites]


I am also pretty disappointed in the lulz drowning out what could have been an interesting conversation about discriminatory attitudes towards non-western mainstream religious beliefs, practice, and how those carry over onto the internet.

Wicca's and most neopaganism more generally is not "non-western", not even a little bit.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:16 PM on June 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think that's just a difficulty of hyphenation; as noted above, the parsing that actually makes sense in context is "non-(Western mainstream)".
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:25 PM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


More directly to the point, a lot of the philosophical and cultural and political origins of Wicca specifically and neopaganism in general, going back past Gardner, are at best adjacent to the same kind of 19th century ethnic nationalism that contributed to, ie, Nazi-associated occultism, the more racist aspects of the Masons, even some of the stuff in Mormonism if you look at things that clearly influenced Joseph Smith if you look at him apart from a religious context in which he's a Prophet. It might or might not be "mainstream", but there's a lot ethno-nationalism and colonialism both underlying modern paganism, and lumping it in with the traditional practices of actual non-Western religions makes me super twitchy. They're very much not analogous.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:25 PM on June 19, 2015 [20 favorites]


that's not what that person was trying to do
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:26 PM on June 19, 2015


wait, I misread you, sorry.

But in reality, basically every religion is attached to terrible shit and that has about zero to do with whether it's cool to make dumb jokes about that religion on mefi

the mods have come down on the side of no dumb jokes about religious people / beliefs, so yeah, I don't think it's even much of a mefi policy question just because it's not christianity this time
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:27 PM on June 19, 2015 [10 favorites]


Why "non western" only? The thing with Wicca is that it was assembled relatively recently from an assortment of western sources. Can we only talk about sexism and classism if the targets are non-western? What's interesting to me is that it's apparently fine to be misogynistic for [++++ favorites] if the targets are imagined to be middle-aged, lower-class white women.

I was trying to non-specifically refer to the moral panic and fear that western mainstream religions (mostly Protestant/Catholic denominations) assign towards any faith, belief or practice that they find unfamiliar, potentially threatening to their control, or otherwise challenging their status quo.
These attitudes, misinformation, and discriminatory actions are not just experienced by Wiccans but also by other pagans, people in the US practicing eastern religions, Muslims, or any of the non-Christian/Judaic systems.
That's all I was trying to say.
posted by ApathyGirl at 2:29 PM on June 19, 2015 [13 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not trying to advocate in favor of dumb jokes or anything, I just really strenuously object to the way a lot of Wiccans/pagans/occultists try to position themselves vis-a-vis religious discrimination, especially given the history and the way a lot of the overarching movement can be weirdly ethnocentric and appropriative at the same time.

And, like, I'm perfectly well aware that's not every Wiccan, pagan, witch, occult-interested person, or even a large plurality, but I do think there's a tendency of people generally aligned with that whole movement to portray themselves and their struggles in a way that's actually kind of appropriative.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:38 PM on June 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


I need a hug. I heard this was the place where everyone who needed one could get one? I just got off the phone with a young American woman of African heritage (dual passports) who tells me she doesn't feel safe anymore, that anything could happen to her anywhere and my heart hurts so badly. I wasn't sure if we could start a grey thread for community support during difficult times but the title here made me think I could, perhaps, come in and speak my words.
posted by infini at 2:41 PM on June 19, 2015 [34 favorites]


but I do think there's a tendency of people generally aligned with that whole movement to portray themselves and their struggles in a way that's actually kind of appropriative

I don't feel like that's something we really need to hash out in Metatalk to justify the general "hey, try not to be a dick about people's religious beliefs" thing we'd like folks to abide by on the site, though. If someone were suggesting that the site shouldn't allow any kind of critical discussion of religious or spiritual beliefs or organizations or the history or politics thereof, that'd be something else, but this isn't that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:43 PM on June 19, 2015 [19 favorites]


::hugs infini::
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 2:44 PM on June 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


infini: I need a hug.

(so many hugs)
posted by ApathyGirl at 2:44 PM on June 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


I just really strenuously object to the way a lot of Wiccans/pagans/occultists try to position themselves vis-a-vis religious discrimination, especially given the history and the way a lot of the overarching movement can be weirdly ethnocentric and appropriative at the same time.

So let's say that you are reading a comment that says something like "cortex hates any non-pizza food". Do you think that the speaker in that case is saying "I think pad thai and corn dogs are super similar because cortex hates both of them"?

Because if not then I don't really think there's much there except the acknowledgment that some wiccans are assholes. Which, yeah. And?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:52 PM on June 19, 2015


By the same token, it was disappointing that this drive-by comment in the Ramdan thread wasn't deleted.

I definitely would not have minded that comment going away, but I think the thread responded pretty well -- there was a little low-key push back, the derailer tried to clarify once and got told "no<>
On the other hand, it's not my faith practice being disparaged, so I can afford to be generous and genial about it (I'm just glad that the people practicing Ramadan ignored the derail and kept talking).
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:00 PM on June 19, 2015


::hug-a-mundo::

I was very intentional in my 3 comments in that threat to made fun of various NOT Wiccans (okay, "the Cult of the Pat Robertson 700" was an easy shot), and of course they didn't get any favorites.

This could lead to a potential Feature Request... add one item to the Flagging options for POSTS to point out a comment thread going wrong in general: "It's not the post, it's the response". A quicker, easier thing than using the contact form or even flagging ALL the bad comments.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:41 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


oneswellfoop -- in a lot of cases, wouldn't this need a contact form message anyway?
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:10 PM on June 19, 2015


Maybe people are making fun of Wicca because it actually is kinda silly? "Religious beliefs that are sincerely held must never be challenged or made fun of" is the reason that gay people can't get married in many US states. And if you think this is me being dickish I'm going to accuse you of making a tone argument.
posted by MattMangels at 4:10 PM on June 19, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm as rootin-tootin an atheist as you will ever find. I think a lot of things are silly. But I have the good grace not to go on and on about it, if someone who believes in it objects, and when the stakes are literally "other people are being a bit silly" (as with this etsy thing) rather than deprivation of fundamental rights (as it often is with Christianity in the U.S.).

I guess I think the general principle is, if real people who are here in the room take this stuff seriously, I can butt out if all I have to add to the conversation is "hurf durf."
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:18 PM on June 19, 2015 [63 favorites]


I generally hate it when threads about niche interests/beliefs derail in to huge point and laugh snark fests like this unless it's something actively harmful like naturopathy. It just feels way too point and laugh, and like a bunch of middle schoolers making fun of the boy who wanted to wear a barbie shirt because he thought it was cool or something.

I don't know, it comes off as really mean spirited, i really wish we had less of this here.

It's just really really negative.
posted by emptythought at 4:18 PM on June 19, 2015 [43 favorites]


"And if you think this is me being dickish I'm going to accuse you of making a tone argument."

You are being dickish. Oh no, MattMangels is about to accuse me of making a tone argument! Whatever will I do?! I'll be devastated by his utterly spurious reasoning and infantile posturing.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:21 PM on June 19, 2015 [44 favorites]




cortex: Well, and I think the relative mildness of it is why this didn't turn into a great big pile of flags a lot quicker;

It could also be that the people snarking up the thread are some of the site's more prominent users, and the folks most likely to flag.

MattMangels: Maybe people are making fun of Wicca because it actually is kinda silly? "Religious beliefs that are sincerely held must never be challenged or made fun of" is the reason that gay people can't get married in many US states.

Christian religious beliefs. (And not all Christians, either.)

All religions are not Christian. Most Wiccans are probably in favor of gay marriage. The ones I know certainly are. Also see.

And if you think this is me being dickish I'm going to accuse you of making a tone argument.

That accusation means nothing to me personally. However, it costs you and I and everyone else nothing to be kind to those who have not harmed us, have never meant us harm, and are unlikely to in the future.
posted by zarq at 4:35 PM on June 19, 2015 [38 favorites]


Maybe people are making fun of Wicca because it actually is kinda silly? "Religious beliefs that are sincerely held must never be challenged or made fun of" is the reason that gay people can't get married in many US states.

You're conflating "here's a thing people do that helps them, personally, feel better and doesn't have any effect on other people" with "here's a way people justify their active discrimination". You're also conflating "making fun of" with "criticizing", and then later "thinking someone's behaving badly" with "trying to silence and further marginalize an oppressed group by criticizing their language"

I don't think that having a rule about not making fun of people's religion (which is no doubt held by some members) is going to lead to a blanket ban on criticizing any religions.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:53 PM on June 19, 2015 [19 favorites]


Robin Skelton, one of my professors was a Wiccan. He was the real deal. Nothing silly about him. People who make fun of Wiccan practices are imaginative, dull, and ignorant.
posted by Nevin at 5:05 PM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


That can be a difficult combination to pull off.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:39 PM on June 19, 2015 [11 favorites]


Bigots gotta big.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:43 PM on June 19, 2015 [16 favorites]


No see everyone Wicca is a religion and therefore by extension it is just like the Westboro baptist church because all theism is exactly alike and besides they are doodooheads, that's what MattMangels is tryinf to explain to us all, see?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:56 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

"Religious beliefs that are sincerely held must never be challenged or made fun of" is the reason that gay people can't get married in many US states.
For what it's worth, part of the way that gay marriage became widely accepted in Iowa is that activists convinced Iowans that respect for difference was part of our identity and heritage. They didn't mock Christians into submission. They said "look, our ancestors were mostly farmers, and they didn't have the luxury of rejecting their neighbors because they spoke the wrong language or went to the wrong church. When your existence is that precarious, you have to judge people by how they treat each other, not whether they're the same as you. You cared whether your neighbor would come look after your kids when your mother was gravely ill and whether they'd pull their weight with the sandbagging when the river was threatening to flood everyone's fields. And if Swedish people could learn to respect German people and Methodists could learn to respect Mennonites, then straight people can respect gay people." And that's pretty convincing to a lot of people here. So no, I don't think that making fun of people's sincere beliefs is the way you get equality. I think that you get equality by convincing people that supporting equality is in accord with their most sincere beliefs, not by mocking them until they accept that they were stupid people who worshiped a stupid sky fairy.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:59 PM on June 19, 2015 [119 favorites]


I’m descended from a woman hanged at Salem, and have very recently been re-reading the trial documents and the contemporaneous essays justifying persecution. And just yesterday I was re-reading an old thread here that pretty much consisted of mean comments about a couple of goths, and thinking about how I believed we wouldn’t so quickly dismiss that kind of pointless nastiness on the blue anymore. Sometimes 325 years seems like a moment and ten years seems like a lifetime.
I guess my point just comes down to: An it harm none, do what ye will.
posted by obloquy at 6:00 PM on June 19, 2015 [26 favorites]


We're continuing to think about possible flagging process tweaks long-term

How about a "not funny" flag, which, when pulled, either opens a trap door beneath the comment or else drags it offstage with a hooked cane?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:44 PM on June 19, 2015 [16 favorites]


Because that would be hilarious.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:01 PM on June 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


The "not funny" flag icon could be a Gong.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:02 PM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


The "not funny" flag icon could be a Gong.

How about a cricket?

(Unicode needs one as an emoji.)
posted by Rangi at 7:31 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


To Basho.
posted by clavdivs at 7:33 PM on June 19, 2015


I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said "Stop! don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said. I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?" He said, "Religious." I said, "Me too! Are you christian or buddhist?" He said, "Christian." I said, "Me too! Are you catholic or protestant?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me too! Are you episcopalian or baptist?" He said, "Baptist!" I said,"Wow! Me too! Are you baptist church of god or baptist church of the lord?" He said, "Baptist church of god!" I said, "Me too! Are you original baptist church of god, or are you reformed baptist church of god?" He said,"Reformed Baptist church of god!" I said, "Me too! Are you reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1879, or reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915?" He said, "Reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915!"

I said, "Die, heretic scum," and pushed him off.
posted by Xavier Xavier at 7:41 PM on June 19, 2015 [19 favorites]


#emo
posted by Xavier Xavier at 7:42 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I recently rewrote that joke as a brief text adventure. I'm not really sure why I do these things.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:57 PM on June 19, 2015 [39 favorites]


Wiccans do experience discrimination, and outright fear or mockery from those who hold other beliefs. Generally the Wiccans I've met have been well meaning people. There is a lot of work by groups to get Wicca recognized aa a religion and the creation of churches. We also have lots of issues surrounding being able to get religious services in places like hospice, hospitals , funerals, and jail/prison.

Lots of people practice different forms of paganism even if it isn't specifically Wicca which has its own traditions/denominations of held beliefs. And as it is newer ot is continuously evolving and people are becoming aware of problematic beliefs held in the past.

That being said, Scammers of any religion should be identified as scammers.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:09 PM on June 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


Fwiw, I started reading that thread and noped right out of that shit, after all the talking we've been doing over in the other metatalk thread about being respectful. I mean come the fuck on.
posted by odinsdream at 8:26 PM on June 19, 2015 [16 favorites]


Maybe people are making fun of Wicca because it actually is kinda silly? "Religious beliefs that are sincerely held must never be challenged or made fun of" is the reason that gay people can't get married in many US states. And if you think this is me being dickish I'm going to accuse you of making a tone argument.

This is some of the most flagrant shitposting i've ever seen on this site. It's so, whipping it out.

gj i guess
posted by emptythought at 8:38 PM on June 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


Fwiw, I started reading that thread and noped right out of that shit, after all the talking we've been doing over in the other metatalk thread about being respectful. I mean come the fuck on.

No kidding. The not-funny jokes turned me off the FPP in a big way.

And if you think this is me being dickish I'm going to accuse you of making a tone argument.

Definitely dickish and I'm pretty sure you don't understand tone argument, either.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:20 PM on June 19, 2015 [17 favorites]


It seems like using this thread as an alternate venue for shitty anti-religious jokes is not ideal.
posted by jaguar at 9:37 PM on June 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


The problem here is that mefites think they are funny.

I wish there was a master's program in whatever so mefites could get in, have a hard time, and drop out to realize that they aren't as funny as they think.

But no. The puns and lame comments will come on a regular basis in random threads.

If you want people to not be offensive, just tell them that their jokes are lame. If your jokes are lame, you don't go around making fun of others. You just sit there quietly.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:37 PM on June 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've known my jokes were lame since I was a child. I decided long ago to either lead with or just do only self-effacing humor. But after a few decades as a White Cis Male from an American Middle-Class Protestant family, I began specializing in ridiculing the demographic groups I belong to. Sometimes 'punching up' is not enough; you've got to punch yourself.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:53 PM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


> I had misgivings about that and seriously considered deleting it, but I thought people's responses were good, and it was sufficiently short that I wasn't sure what they were going for so I left a note instead. I don't really disagree with you on the general thrust of that, I just ended up going with note instead of deletion in that case.

Thanks. I can appreciate that and the thread was indeed more robust for it.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:01 PM on June 19, 2015


As someone of a certain hippie ilk, I actually didn't think that thread was nearly as bad as it could have been. No, seriously. I actually expect pretty much zero respect to go to Wicca/paganism in this world (though really, it's not remotely as fucked up and expensive as $cientology, that was the one bit that kinda got my goat), so the folks who were sane in there or saying to back off the crap jokes were nice.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:06 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe people are making fun of Wicca because it actually is kinda silly? "Religious beliefs that are sincerely held must never be challenged or made fun of" is the reason that gay people can't get married in many US states. And if you think this is me being dickish I'm going to accuse you of making a tone argument.

I have no idea whether or not this was the intention, but this comment reads to me like the perfect parody of an overbearing 18-year-old undergrad home from his first semester of college, all ready to lay down some truth bombs on the ignorant masses now that he's completed Intro to Philosophy 101 and taken magic mushrooms for the first time.
posted by The Gooch at 11:23 PM on June 19, 2015 [19 favorites]


I have no idea whether or not this was the intention, but this comment reads to me like the perfect parody of an overbearing 18-year-old undergrad home from his first semester of college, all ready to lay down some truth bombs on the ignorant masses now that he's completed Intro to Philosophy 101 and taken magic mushrooms for the first time.

That's as much a Wiccan stereotype as it is an atheist stereotype.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:43 PM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've known more than one (okay, three) Evangelical Christians who turned into something like that stereotype after one or two semesters of college... (And a few more who didn't.) YMMV.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:48 PM on June 19, 2015


Being a drugged up pontificator who has the whole ontology and consensual reality thing all worked out is part of the full uni experience.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:00 AM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


After spending quite some time being opposed to religion, I've noticed my problem wasn't with religion, but with religion creeping out of homes and temples and the occasional holiday into politics. If someone wants to believe Jesus, God, Muhammed, Buddha, Zeus, Moon Goddess, etc, it's really not my business.
It becomes my business when someone tells me something is wrong because it says so in the scripture, or people are being harmed because of it. Religion, mainstream or neo-pagan can play a positive role in society, as long as it accepts the boundaries of society itself, which is very often not the case.

This is why I'll always mock Bling Suburban Jesus. The very american, California-blonde, cherry-picked, loosely interpreted and surely capitalist, not socialist at all Jesus. Fuck that guy. Same with idiots trying to organize orgies to please the shadow of the blue moon.
posted by lmfsilva at 12:50 AM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Let's try to stick more to discussion of site standards and behavior and the Etsy Wiccan Items thread rather than getting into a discussion or debate about religion generally.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:12 AM on June 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


We make fun of Christians here too, so...
posted by Jacqueline at 1:50 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


We make fun of Christians here too, so...

...we're equal opportunities assholes? Yay us?

I don't generally go into religious threads because the "oh man believers are so stupid and unscientific amirite" back-patting is insufferable. It's the only area where I feel "don't read the comments" applies on the site - if I want to see people being prejudiced uninformed jerks there's the whole rest of the Internet and I don't like it here. I'm not remotely surprised this thread went like it did but it could have been so much worse. (Though saying people weren't as assholish as they could have been is not exactly glowing praise). I appreciated the people who had thoughtful things to say and also cortex stepping in.
posted by billiebee at 2:13 AM on June 20, 2015 [21 favorites]


I've known my jokes were lame since I was a child. I decided long ago to either lead with or just do only self-effacing humor. But after a few decades as a White Cis Male from an American Middle-Class Protestant family, I began specializing in ridiculing the demographic groups I belong to. Sometimes 'punching up' is not enough; you've got to punch yourself.

Lead the movement. Let more white boy's punch themselves!
posted by hal_c_on at 2:17 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: People weren't as assholish as they could have been.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:18 AM on June 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't think you can separate both, taz. My comment here mentions my ethos regarding religion: If it's not harming anyone (and if it is, that's a discussion to be had over there), mocking personal beliefs should be called to attention.
If the topic discussed is harming people (catholic church hiding pedopriests, megachurches making hate-spewing pastors millionaires, burning people for not believing what the prophet says, sacrificing virgins to the volcano, trying to lure teens into a orgy, etc), it becomes more or less fair game as long as the hypocrisies, inconsistencies or just bizarre behaviour, even in context) are being mocked.

And what happened over in the Blue was that it jumped into "lolwitches" pretty fast. This -like I'm guessing is what happens every time there's an issue on religion- is not about punching up or punching down, it's about punching above or below the belt, which is a very important distinction.

Even if sometimes a headbut and a knee in the nads is fair game, and I've bit my fair number of ears.
posted by lmfsilva at 2:22 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


If it's not harming anyone (and if it is, that's a discussion to be had over there), mocking personal beliefs should be called to attention.

Selling people spells is harmful in the same way that selling them homeopathic remedies is harmful, in that a) it's a scam and b) it doesn't actually fix anything.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:27 AM on June 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


I really don't see the difference between mocking homeopathy practitioners, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, etc. (all acceptable targets here) and mocking religious believers. The latter are just as harmful and irrational as the former and deserve the same lack of respect.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:32 AM on June 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think in some ways, that it just went straight to jokey was that the actual article seemed to be aiming for more "problematic with a side of really bad customer service" than "egregious discrimination"; since there's tons of terrible crap on Etsy, I don't think judgment about your average spell-for-sale listing on Etsy is actually judgment on Wicca as a faith any more than judgment about your average crappy listing in any other category. I can remember being in youth group as a teenager and wandering through a Christian bookstore with a couple others from the group and pointing out all the completely hilariously awful crap that they were selling. All of us were Very Serious Christians, that doesn't mean that having a cross on your toilet paper holder isn't very deeply weird.

But then we get people comparing Wicca to being worth a similar level of respect to Scientology? And that's where I think a line needs to be drawn where it doesn't matter if you think someone else's faith is silly, you don't just get to make comparisons between "this belief I think is silly" and "a group with a history of heinous and harmful acts and leadership that still supports the practices that led to the harm". Silly and evil are not the same thing. You can say that Quiverfull is silly from an intellectual perspective, but from a practical perspective it's done a lot of harm to women and girls especially. It doesn't matter how silly I think it is, I would never, ever compare groups who systematically abuse and exploit people with groups who have practices that I consider probably not actually magical. It's equivalent to leaving a drive-by comment comparing some group to Nazis. If you can't back that up with actual evidence that they're evil, you need to not.
posted by Sequence at 2:34 AM on June 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I really don't see the difference between mocking homeopathy practitioners, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, etc. (all acceptable targets here) and mocking religious believers. The latter are just as harmful and irrational as the former and deserve the same lack of respect.

Profiteering aspects of religion are similar, genuine spiritual beliefs free of that sort of exploitative thing, less so. Then there is a big crazy grey area.

But then this is also a site where many people defended very strongly as non-offensive Charlie Hebdo cartoons like ones depicting Muhammad posing to receive pornographic anal sex, while other people disagreed and suggested any depiction at all should be considered over the line. So, the fact is what level of respect spirituality and spiritual figures deserve is a pretty open debate here and honestly I don't think we have much of a community consensus on where all the lines should be drawn.

Simple guideline I try to follow is that if you know there are believers of certain spiritual faiths around here, try your best to be polite and respect their sensibilities.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:40 AM on June 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I really don't see the difference between mocking homeopathy practitioners, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, etc. (all acceptable targets here) and mocking religious believers. The latter are just as harmful and irrational as the former and deserve the same lack of respect.

All religious believers are harmful and irrational and deserving of disrespect? That's not at all prejudiced and uninformed, I stand corrected.
posted by billiebee at 2:54 AM on June 20, 2015 [23 favorites]


Jacqueline, that seems pretty mean-spirited and alienating. I'm a firm atheist who believes that supernatural explanations of the world are wrong, but most people are not; the vast majority have some form of spiritual belief.

But also, it's not particularly helpful to lump all spiritual beliefs into the category of "harmful." You may think it's inherently harmful to teach something that is untrue, but you also know that there is a huge variety of spiritual belief. A church that teaches equality before god is not as harmful as a church that teaches inequality. A church that teaches prayer is not as harmful as a church that teaches prayer and an avoidance of modern medicine. A religious leader who offers spiritual services for free is not as bad as one that charges desperate people exorbitant amounts.

I have some empathy for where you are coming from, because my own understanding of the world entails that spiritual beliefs are irrational. However, you don't have to believe someone is right to respect them and attempt to understand where you're coming from. Some spiritual beliefs don't deserve any respect; classing them all that way on the basis that they're irrational obliterates meaningful distinctions and just hobbles your ability to empathize with other people.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:16 AM on June 20, 2015 [20 favorites]


Plus, we all have irrational beliefs, even those of us who do our best to avoid it. Human beings are fundamentally irrational; our reasoning is just a thin veneer on top of a delicate, bubbling mess of response and emotion. We can try our best but none of us will ever be teh s00per rational man scientist that some of the new atheists hold up as the platonic ideal of how to understand the world.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:20 AM on June 20, 2015 [13 favorites]


Selling people spells is harmful in the same way that selling them homeopathic remedies is harmful, in that a) it's a scam and b) it doesn't actually fix anything.

And this is what I've said on the post:
unless something is actually fraudulent by promising/hinting guaranteed results, it should be allowed to be sold.

So we agree.

I really don't see the difference between mocking homeopathy practitioners, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, etc. (all acceptable targets here) and mocking religious believers. The latter are just as harmful and irrational as the former and deserve the same lack of respect.

Once again, someone praying to a non-existing entity in their own home is a lot different than selling fake cures, allowing once-controlled diseases to spread out again or keep fucking the already unbalanced ecosystem. What should merit respect or lack thereof is what they do that impacts outside their lives. In broad terms, someone who believes in a higher power and happens to be decent to the rest of the people is a better person than one of those fuck yeah science, MRA spewing manchild that is so common on the internets now, so is a an atheist that believe in equality for all is better for society than one of those Bling Jesus people I mentioned earlier.

(also, I understand that I am from a country that while being very catholic, really cares more about being decent to one another, so my passive vision towards private beliefs might be odd for someone from Jesusland)
posted by lmfsilva at 3:46 AM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's as much a Wiccan stereotype as it is an atheist stereotype.

But it's absolutely true of arrogant little pricks, which was the actual group being presented as a comparison.

Selling people spells is harmful in the same way that selling them homeopathic remedies is harmful, in that a) it's a scam and b) it doesn't actually fix anything.

That's as may be, but it wasn't just Etsy spell sellers that were being slagged, but Wicca itself.. No one is objecting to mocking sleazy shysters, but mocking a religion itself is what is being discussed here, and it sucks, no matter what religion you're talking about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:55 AM on June 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


This is why I'll always mock Bling Suburban Jesus. The very american, California-blonde, cherry-picked, loosely interpreted and surely capitalist, not socialist at all Jesus. Fuck that guy. Same with idiots trying to organize orgies to please the shadow of the blue moon.

(also, I understand that I am from a country that while being very catholic, really cares more about being decent to one another, so my passive vision towards private beliefs might be odd for someone from Jesusland)

Could you stop with the vulgar "fuck that guy" judgmental attitude about the US and people who like moon orgies please...person from a country that cares about being decent to others?
posted by Drinky Die at 3:55 AM on June 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


I do want to remind people that there have been study after study that spirituality is good for your mental health.

Can we separate out that people selling crap on etsy is a cross-religious pheromon ? I don't think those who sell prayers or rosaries means that catholics are having orgies under the full moon! Or avoiding all science or medicine for that matter. (If you think that catholics having orgies under the full moon is off base, many Wiccans believe that sterotype is on about that same level. Just because our religion allows for that in terms of their being no moral objection to it doesn't mean that is what people are actually up to.)
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:06 AM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Now I want to have orgies under the full moon. Thanks, MetaFilter.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:48 AM on June 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have learned to be circumspect about my distaste for religion. I admit that I may not have taken some aspects of Wicca seriously. I will cut that shit out now.

This was a good MeTa.
posted by theora55 at 7:15 AM on June 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


It seems like using this thread as an alternate venue for shitty anti-religious jokes is not ideal.
posted by jaguar at 12:37 AM on June 20


Sounds like someone lost at cortex's text adventure game. Kidding. I love you all, even the heretical scum.
posted by Xavier Xavier at 7:42 AM on June 20, 2015


That's a pretty bad response when you're being told that someone finds your joke shitty. Can you try again?
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:48 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think there is an important distinction to be made between belief and practice. I have known a lot of neopagan practitioners and very few of them seriously believe that the Goddess is an actual entity who exists somewhere dressed in a flowing white gown. Rather they view the practice and the rituals as a way of focusing their attention on natural rhythms and feelings and powers, some physical and some perhaps less so, which may be useful.

It is also important that neopagan practices like Wicca are generally syncretic, making them inherently tolerant of other systems. They know that theirs is not the only path to self actualization. This places them in stark contrast to religions that are actively working to own the whole noosphere.

And that gets us back to what everyone is carefully dancing around without saying, which is that everyone hates the mostly harmless Wiccans precisely because their mere existence is a threat to everyone who wants their belief system to plant its flag on the North Pole and claim the whole Earth in the fullness of time. Wiccans generally know you're laughing at them and don't care. They know it's silly too. But the difference between Wiccans and most other people is that they know it's silly. It's kind of hard to gather the materials for a proper altar without realizing just how ridiculous it looks from the outside.

But this very openness and humor makes them a threat that cannot be tolerated to those who are more deeply invested in their equally silly beliefs. Erect penises are also inherently silly, but a lot of people will get downright violent if you laugh at theirs. So it is too with religion.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:49 AM on June 20, 2015 [32 favorites]


All people, both religious and nonreligious, have human dignity that is deserving of equal respect. For example, whether one is spiritual or nonspiritual (as I am), is no indication of whether they are of sound mind (though others, like the Department of Defense, say differently). Both spiritual and nonspiritual people have equal potential for good mental health.

It is possible to express disagreement with the reality and/or perceived quality of a given element of a person's (religious/nonreligious) worldview without condemning that person's inherent worth, and without overgeneralizing or stereotyping etc. And, while possible, this potential for nuanced, respectful disagreements is often not reached, as evidenced in the thread under discussion.

In fostering better conversations, it is important to model the equal respect we wish to see.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:49 AM on June 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


I should have said: it is important to have models of the equal respect we wish to see (as obviously not everyone in every discussion is going to engage in ways everyone else finds respectful).
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:53 AM on June 20, 2015


That's a pretty bad response when you're being told that someone finds your joke shitty. Can you try again?
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:48 AM on June 20


I misread the room (or at least Too-Ticky). I think Emo's joke is both funny, relevant, and revealing, but humor is obviously subjective.

So I apologize for hurting anyone's feelings (not the weasely "if" faux-pology). Thanks for the link to your game, cortex. I thought that was very clever.
posted by Xavier Xavier at 8:30 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really don't see the difference between mocking homeopathy practitioners, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, etc. (all acceptable targets here) and mocking religious believers. The latter are just as harmful and irrational as the former and deserve the same lack of respect.

If you're justifying shitty behavior on the basis that the people in question totes deserve it, you're not exactly winning hearts and minds.

Incidentally, religious people do use this site, as well, so it's not like this is all some abstract "but this group of people deserves it." These are actual insults towards other users that we're talking about here. I mean, maybe some users hold a fervent belief that it's OK to insult people if they can justify it to themselves, but I'd say that's a pretty "harmful and irrational" way of looking at things.
posted by teponaztli at 10:03 AM on June 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


This whole thing has been interesting to think about. I made a joke in the thread and I certainly laughed at and favorited some others but it came from a place of laughing at something that was a big part of my life for a long time, I was a practicing Wiccan for a few years and really serious about it. And a lot of it really is funny thinking back on it. I mean, dreadfully earnest and absolutely terrible Wicca-influenced poetry with my name on it preserved in amber with the rest of the Geocities archive, the wonderfully uncomfortable ceremony at my wedding with our predominantly Christian families in attendance, the really shallow lifestyle stuff that went along with it back when it was new to me and fascinating and a total obsession which made me go overboard. Just the thought of being in a group of completely serious Wiccans trying to find a bit of truth and something real in... a bunch of mass market paperbacks in the religion/spirituality section of a Borders book store, the majority of them hilariously bad and superficial, but we'd pore through them just the same because we had no other direction. Just the image of myself at that time in my life puts me in a mode where I really want to laugh about it, laugh at the overly-earnest kid that I was. But - I did live that experience and I still have a lot of respect for Wicca as a religion and a lot of firsthand experience with how difficult it could be at times when people learned what I believed, especially conservative Christian family members in knee-jerk satanic panic mode.

The thing that I forgot in the moment, in that thread, was that nobody else knows my context, and that even knowing the context doesn't make yet another flippant joke any better for someone who's heard too many and is tired of it. Which is definitely on me. But at the same time, it makes me realize that a lot of the time, especially in a place like Metafilter where I give the general userbase a lot of good faith because they've earned it, jokes and other comments that might seem malicious may simply be careless and clumsy, because I don't know the context and lived experience behind them. Which, again, the responsibility is still on the person making the comment and that context doesn't make it okay, but it's helpful to me at least to remember that 99% of the time I have no idea where someone's comments are coming from and maybe it's more mistake than malice. And I think that's largely what happened here. And knowing Mefi, people will think a bit more about this kind of thing before making an off-the-cuff comment in the future. I mean this is one of the few places on the web where comments have evolved to be more careful and understanding over the years, you'll see a lot of thoughtless stuff in older threads that wouldn't fly today and a lot of it is from users who are still here and have taken discussions like this to heart. I'd venture that the vast majority of us would cringe at stuff we would say without thinking it through even a few years ago.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:13 AM on June 20, 2015 [41 favorites]


> I recently rewrote that joke as a brief text adventure.

You are in a maze of twisty little heterodoxies, all different (but indistinguishably so)
posted by jfuller at 10:26 AM on June 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


I was a practicing Wiccan for a few years and really serious about it. And . . . the wonderfully uncomfortable ceremony at my wedding with our predominantly Christian families in attendance, the really shallow lifestyle stuff that went along with it back when it was new to me and fascinating and a total obsession which made me go overboard.

You need to read some Aldous Huxley to get the tone of incredulous and somewhat awestruck irony just right, and then write this novel.
posted by jamjam at 10:45 AM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


This shit always makes me feel vaguely embarrassed to be an atheist. Like what did Wiccans ever do to you? They're as harmless a religion as it's possible to be, it's basically just Unitarianism with an airbrushed van. If you want to go pick on some religious people, pick on the ones that are doing horrible things in the name of their religion, it's not like there's a shortage.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:09 AM on June 20, 2015 [29 favorites]


You need to read some Aldous Huxley to get the tone of incredulous and somewhat awestruck irony just right

I've been trying to hit that note all my life.

(Sadly, repeated readings of Crome Yellow haven't helped.)
posted by octobersurprise at 11:36 AM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


But see, if they picked on the religions doing horrible things, they might have horrible things done back to them. It's much safer to pick on the Unitarians in the airbrushed vans.
posted by happyroach at 11:48 AM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


For my part the irksome portion of the comments was turning it toward "haha loser weirdos" when to me the interest of the post was: is Etsy being fair to minority religions? Should Etsy be fair in that way? If Etsy is choosing unfairness, why?

I come from a lifelong love of comparative religion as it fascinates me to see the human structures resulting from and reinforcing specific ontological assertions -- earnest, philosophical discussion of the merits and problematic areas of faiths and faith in general is something I can brook when well supported and constructively argued (and not phrased merely as a lashout or joke). Similarly, political systems, social groups and ethical schools which occur outside of what is generally conceptualized as religion (but which share some of religions hallmarks) are also fascinating to me.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 11:48 AM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wiccan't we talk about religions, old or new without mockery, for Christ's sake. Islam religion reflexively sometimes myself and catch myself halfway through, and am trying to be Not That Atheist after going through that phase at 14. Jew just need to be self-aware in the long run and not afraid to back down when confronted with believers in a faith who present themselves right in front of you, as Real Human Beings. Agnostic's hard, Bahá'í can't we just get along?
posted by aydeejones at 3:09 PM on June 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


People of all faiths and lack thereof can unite around GROANING.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:18 PM on June 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


If you're an lol-skywizard atheist, do you know what you have in common with a fire-and-brimstone Leviticus-quoting fundamentalist? An unshakable faith in the rightness of your beliefs -- to the exclusion of all others -- that makes you a smug asshole that nobody likes.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:12 PM on June 20, 2015 [16 favorites]


Not really. Asshole, yes, equivalence of faith, no.
posted by Justinian at 4:23 PM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


For my part I don't think ridiculing ridiculous things should be verboten. But when the ridiculous part is incidental to the topic of the post (Etsy's differential treatment of various religions) that's a different matter when the entire content of your comment is LOL WICCANS.

Maybe just include that part at the end of your actually-relevant-and-worthwhile comment. Heh.
posted by Justinian at 4:26 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was another reader who noped out of that thread. I'm an atheist but I went through a Wiccan period and people in that thread were giving me flashbacks to my jerk-ass ex who was always all LOLwiccans. Cortex's note was about at the bottom but I didn't give it another look later because the tone had been set IMO.

"Metafilter: giving me flashbacks to my jerk-ass ex" is not a Metafilter I like.
posted by immlass at 5:51 PM on June 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


My favorite exchange from that thread:

Call: Wicca was invented around the same time Scientology was, and deserves to be treated with the same respect...
Sys Rq at 1:40 PM


Response: Seems a bit harsh. I'm fine with whatever you identify yourself, really. It's just when you start expecting the protection of my federally backed dollars, you have to deal with the rules of the public market.
posted by Think_Long at 1:45 PM


I like Poe's Law more than most, but I honestly can't tell if either of you are being sincere.

I mean, last I checked Scientology isn't the most respected belief system out there, so Sys Rq's comment reads like a joke. Think_Long's comment though seems like an actual response, but my ignorance kicks in. Last I checked my "federally backed dollars" protects pretty much any belief no matter how out there or legitimate. You can even express these beliefs in this country without only impunity but an expectation of safety while doing so.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:16 PM on June 20, 2015


I really don't see the difference between mocking homeopathy practitioners, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, etc. (all acceptable targets here) and mocking religious believers. The latter are just as harmful and irrational as the former and deserve the same lack of respect.
posted by Jacqueline at 23:32 on June 20 [3 favorites +] [!]


Amazing.

I kinda view metafilter as a homeschool. Sure everything is great when you're there. Mommy will solve all the problems. But when it's time to talk to people who are outside, the negatives of living in the bubble are brought to light.

You seriously don't see the difference between climate change deniers and a rabbi?
No, of course not. I was homeschooled.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:57 PM on June 20, 2015 [12 favorites]


Count me as another member of a minority religion who noped out of that thread so fast I practically summoned a coconut shell to hide in. Intellectually, I know a lot of people hold me in contempt because of my religious beliefs, but it's always a shock to come face to face with it - and I'd rather it not be another person I liked; I've already had my brace of atheist men in my life tell me I'm insane/stupid for being religious.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:34 PM on June 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


You seriously don't see the difference between climate change deniers and a rabbi?

Ok, I'll bite. As the adult atheist son of a pastor raised in a religious household I don't, but generally I keep my mouth shut. Bear in mind, you asked.

Both have a total disregard of the scientific method. Both believe in something in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Neither are willing to change their belief when faced with facts. Both are basing their reality on the ever shrinking unexplainable. Both depend on faith and indoctrination and deniability.

Seriously, I could go on all damn day.

I could argue that the religious person is more harmful because at least 97% of scientists have the balls to denounce the climate denier and a goodly portion of the populace does as well. We can all say the climate denier is a nutter, but say that about someone who is religious you are either a bigot or making an attack on Christmas. Also, climate deniers don't tend to touch small children (but they are just as likely to hate women and gays).

As a free speech advocate one of the things that infuriates me is when someone says, "You have to respect my beliefs." No I don't. I have to respect your right to hold these beliefs and to express them. But a lot of beliefs are plain fucking stupid.

If you can't prove what you believe I am most not interested in entertaining your belief.

If you have to take it on faith, whether that be scientists are wrong or that Yahweh gives a rat's ass about what happens on this planet, then there's a good chance all you are going to do is make me yawn.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:38 PM on June 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


I was homeschooled.
posted by hal_c_on


Wait, for real? All of grades k-12, or just some of them?
posted by Greg Nog at 8:20 PM on June 20, 2015


Both have a total disregard of the scientific method.

Sure, like Rabbi Aryeh Frimer.

As a fellow atheist, can I ask you not to do atheism a disservice by spouting uninformed nonsense?
posted by maxsparber at 8:27 PM on June 20, 2015 [28 favorites]


It makes sense to angrily fight religious overreach in the civic sphere. But in light conversation, it seems pretty rude to go to lengths to slag something that's important to people and which they're not pushing on you at all.

I don't know that MetaTalk is actually the place where we should debate whether religious belief is equivalent to climate change denialism. But hell, it's Saturday night, I'll take off my mod hat and offer.

You say religious believers have a "total disregard for the scientific method" but that's unsupported. Plenty of scientists are religious and have a fine regard for science. Most of the original movers and shakers of the scientific revolution were religious. Some of the most intelligent and intellectually rigorous people I've ever known have been devoutly religious.

If you think religious belief is incompatible with a proper hard-nosed respect for science and proof, what experiment do you think has disproven the existence of God or all other supernatural entities? As I said, I'm a raging atheist, but I don't think we have scientific proof of the nonexistence of supernatural entities -- I don't even know what would count as such a proof. Is it scientific to think we've finished the project of figuring out the whole inventory of the universe? Doesn't seem so to me. I believe that no appeal to supernatural entities is required to explain our observations... but first of all, I believe that partly just based on my own internal constitution (faith?) -- acknowledging that, since we haven't reached the end of all observation and explanation, it's possible there could be something that would require positing such entities. But also, beyond the belief that no such entities are required for explanation, it takes additional principles to get to the conclusion that there aren't (or couldn't be) supernatural entities. It takes IMO hubristic overconfidence to think that we know right now -- somehow on the basis of science?! -- that there for sure aren't supernatural entities. How could we know such a thing, rather than merely having good reasons to believe it? (As I said, I think we do have good reasons to believe it.)

Now, as to what particular religions or individual religious people believe, absolutely there are some silly and wrong things in that mix, and some terribly pernicious things. But on the question of whether belief in supernatural entities of any kind is a sin against science, well -- it seems to me the epistemic sins of climate change deniers are much more serious.

Can you prove every one of your beliefs, as you suggested a person should be able to do? I'm guessing not, since I don't think anyone could. It seems more likely that, instead, you have -- like me! -- a basic materialist framework and a basic (or specialized) understanding of science and its building blocks, and you have a systematic way of deciding whose word to take for things that are outside your area of expertise. One of the problems with climate change denialism is that it violates that epistemic principle of accepting the information produced by scientific experts (who have solid educations; using the best scientific methods and materials; attested by the best peer review; sanctioned by the best schools; operating under a code of ethics that penalizes falsifying data, conflicts of interest, etc; embedded in a system of incentives meant to push them toward truth rather than other interests; ....). It rejects in an unreasoning way all the work we've done since the Enlightenment to build that edifice of factual knowledge, procedural know-how, etc. that underlies the collective project of science. You think the climate change deniers are not deferring to epistemic authorities in the right way (or at least, I think that!).

That's very different from believing without proof (e.g. believing in a supernatural entity). Climate change denialism is failing to believe, where you should believe because there is proof (e.g. proof of the human role in climate change).
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:29 PM on June 20, 2015 [54 favorites]


I was NOT homeschooled. How dare you!
posted by hal_c_on at 8:46 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Someone on Usenet (rasfw represent) had a signature I always liked but can never quite recall. It was a really, really nice statement about atheism--something like "In a cold, uncaring universe in which we're all alone, it is so much more important to love one another."
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:56 PM on June 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


> If you can't prove what you believe I am most not interested in entertaining your belief.

I don't think you know nearly as much about the scientific method as you think you do. That's not how it works.

Neither are willing to change their belief when faced with facts.

Hm, like the Pope?

Not every religious person's theology or praxis is identical to your dad's Protestantism. Science also doesn't work the way you seem to think it does.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:19 PM on June 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


"Neither are willing to change their belief when faced with facts.

Hm, like the Pope"

"Francis is extending the work of his predecessors. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI both spoke of environmental protection as an urgent moral concern and placed the issue the context of church social teaching on helping the poor and promoting the common good"

I guess dads praxis is still in the encyclical stage.
posted by clavdivs at 10:00 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Pope didn't change his mind. He went with the prevailing facts. He was already on this side. He just called out the idiots. He has a degree in chemistry. Probably not home schooled.

As a fellow atheist, can I ask you not to do atheism a disservice by spouting uninformed nonsense?

You could if you you didn't resort to anecdotal evidence. Finding one rabbi that believes in science is no more compelling than the priest that denounces science.

I don't think you know as nearly as much about the scientific method as you think you do.

Fair enough. Point to me how this methodology would impart more credence to climate change over religion and we can start talking. Pretty sure I understand it enough to know one is testable.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:03 PM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


"What I wear is pants.
What I do is live.
How I pray is breathe”

-Thomas Merton.
posted by clavdivs at 10:26 PM on June 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


cjorgensen: Finding one rabbi that believes in science is no more compelling than the priest that denounces science.

Au contraire. Just like one black swan disproves that all swans are white, one rabbi who believes in science disproves that rabbis in general, which means all rabbis, have a total disregard of the scientific method.
One is all it takes. That's logic.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:39 AM on June 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


I just had a cross-country flight that included a long wait on the plane due to a sudden thunderstorm, then on arrival I had to wait forever for the not-so-super Super Shuttle to come and pick us up, etc. etc.

But then I get to come home to people rehashing the exact same arguments about religion that people have subjected me to for my entire adult life.

Guess which experience is more enjoyable in comparison!

I mean, seriously, does this argument really belong on this thread, on this site? Can't we all just agree to not make fun of people, even though we think we're more rational or whatever? Can't we look at this conversation, say "hmm, this is a conversation about treating people with respect in which no one asked to be told about the dangers of religion," and then leave it at that? I mean, honestly just fucking leave it at that, and not have to get a last word in about how religious people are actually more destructive?

Christ, I gave up religion so many years ago, but so help me I will go back to church if it means I get to avoid endless internet arguments about how irrational religious people are.

Wait, maybe I am dead, and I am in Hell right now, and this is why I keep reading threads about how religious people deserve to be mocked, or whatever. Maybe I am in Hell, and this is what I get for my loss of faith.
posted by teponaztli at 1:11 AM on June 21, 2015 [21 favorites]


Metafilter: Nah, nevermind.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:15 AM on June 21, 2015


Fair enough. Point to me how this methodology would impart more credence to climate change over religion and we can start talking. Pretty sure I understand it enough to know one is testable.

The Scientific Method also requires a person to set aside their preconceived notions and listen to evidence. I don't see any evidence yet that you are capable of that particular aspect.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:21 AM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid and I started having thoughts that god didn't exist, I felt sad and angry. Why would an all-powerful, all-loving god allow so much misery? It frustrated me. Sometimes I felt if I talked (or argued) with believers about it, they might reveal something about the nature of why they believed that I hadn't thought of. Or maybe, if god did exist, and I kept prodding, and she/he would let me know in some way. As I got older my passion for this subject mostly left me and arguing about it felt ridiculous. Mostly. There are still times I wish god existed. However, with all the pain and misery, I'm not quite sure how I would feel about a god that continued to let all that awfulness happen.

Anyway, I try to have a little compassion for people who have feelings about this subject one way or another.

But it's okay to laugh and have fun too.
posted by dashDashDot at 4:47 AM on June 21, 2015


The weirdest thing is how you talk about "believing" in science, and then treat having a religious or spiritual belief as some kind of scientific heresy that means you don't really "believe" in science.

That's ... odd.

Another weird thing - though not as weird - is how you object to someone providing you of an example of a rabbi who has just about the opposite of a "total disregard for the scientific method," on the grounds that it's just one example... deliberately shutting your eyes to the fact that this guy isn't an exception, and that many scientists are or were religious. (See: Newton.) I know you are not that ignorant.

So that's also ... odd, since you are so het up about religious people ignoring evidence and facts.

I'm not sure you're doing either atheism or science many favors here.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:32 AM on June 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Finding one rabbi that believes in science is no more compelling than the priest that denounces science.

Well, you made the charge. It's not science to just make claims about rabbis, it's up to you to demonstrate your case. Go ahead and prove to me, a Jew, that rabbis are, as a whole, blinkered fundamentalists who reject science.
posted by maxsparber at 5:34 AM on June 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Count me in as another atheist who finds threads like that embarrassing and makes me want to avoid calling myself an atheist so as not to be lumped in with the assholes.
posted by languagehat at 7:41 AM on June 21, 2015 [23 favorites]


I've been using the terms atheist and anti-theist in discussions with friends who are religious so they can better understand what my position is.
  • Atheist: I don't believe in any gods.
  • Anti-theist: ... and neither should you.
I'm an atheist and see no reason to judge others for their religious beliefs. Some behavior that may be driven by those beliefs can be problematic, and I feel that's fair game to complain about.
posted by FishBike at 7:51 AM on June 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


If you're against rejecting science, then be an anti-anti-science. Don't be indirect about it by attacking religions; it's a fool's game - anyone ought to know that. There are so ridiculously many religious people who are also not anti-science that those who take that argument on just swirl around in their own froth like the Tasmanian Devil. It's trivial to prove that the world of religion is rich in exceptions.

LobsterMitten said it beautifully. For most of the athiests I know, atheism is at best a heuristic, one that offers itself when they begin to entertain doubt - whether engendered by gut feelings of reduced trust in authorities or by processes of reason. Few atheists have deep understandings of science (though many people with deep understandings are atheist or agnostic) and few spend their lives returning to test first principles. As a one-time athiest myself, I think that's fine.

But atheists do thousands of irrational things, like any other human being. Critique religious figures and entities for their moral faults and failings, sure. But it's nonsensical to critique them merely for being irrational, as that is what humans are, irrational. We dupe ourselves with mental routines we are not even consciously aware of. We designate certain dates as more important than others - birthdays, memorials, anniversaries, holidays. We attach ourselves emotionally more to some people than others. None of this is rational, and most of us do all of those things.

One thing I find that hardcore activist-atheists have a hard time understanding is that for me, and many other religious people, religion does not have to function in our lives as a set of beliefs. It can be a practice. It can be a set of traditions, routines, rituals, stories, and concepts that help us make moral decisions and work on ourselves as people, while, for many, banding together to do some good things in the world. I understand that there's no reason for me or anyone religious to demand the privilege of not being attacked, but I do think attacks reveal a shallow and narrow understanding of what religion is and how it functions for people. That's largely what makes such discussions tiresome for me: those folks are talking about how terrible religion is based on one definition of "religion," but, as we see here, those usually exclude an enormous portion of the complex realities of what religions are - so much so as to make "religion," broadly writ, a straw man, and to land us in unhelpful generalities.

I'm entirely willing to concede that hardline atheists could be completely correct that there is no level of universal order that could be called 'divine.' At the same time, that has nothing to do with whether religions provide social and intellectual structures that can be helpful to people (as well as harmful, as some sometimes are). And ultimately, it's the insistence that their rightness must trump every other value that it can become socially repulsive. And, in the end, if you're using your rightness to browbeat other people and make them feel bad, rejected, insulted, hurt, and like you think they're stupid and benighted - aren't you just repeating the same negative behaviors you deplore in authoritarian religious structures?
posted by Miko at 8:01 AM on June 21, 2015 [30 favorites]


do you forget how poorly my Church of the Retromingent Pachyderm was treated here?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:07 AM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: Wait, maybe I am dead, and I am in Hell right now, and this is why I keep reading threads
posted by Jacqueline at 8:10 AM on June 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


In my experience, I've found it possible to identify as an atheist without being seen as an "asshole" by trying to participate in dialogue respectfully. Fostering respectful theist-atheist dialogue is very difficult, for reasons I've discussed at length in other threads, but it is possible.

Yes, poor behavior among some atheists doesn't help, but unless there are atheists modeling better behavior while identifying as atheists, then our dialogue will be more difficult than it would otherwise be. Just as if there weren't religious people or theists participating respectfully, the disruptive groups on each side would dominate and prevent dialogue.

One point I think worth keeping in mind is that any critiques of irresponsible behavior by atheists should be directed at specific behaviors and be wary of possible (and unintended) reinforcement of larger anti-atheist narratives.

For those who are celebrating today, have a happy World Humanist Day!
posted by audi alteram partem at 8:22 AM on June 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I had another thought: there's a difference between critiquing and condemning behaviors and actions by religious entities and condemning the existence of religion itself. So, Scientology has come up. Does a principle of tolerance require you never to critique the behaviors and actions of Scientology? Hell no. You can say "Scientology is disturbing because of its practices, its extortion of cash from followers, its hierarchical structures and its operations within social institutions" - and of course that's just a short list. You can do the same for Catholicism or Fundamentalist Christianity or Orthodox Judaism or Buddhism or FSM or whatever you want to critique. I would never say that religious entities and figures should be held immune from critique and sometimes censure. Have at it - I join you in some of those activities and definitely deplore many practices of many religions. But simple mockery and posturing of individuals and their practices is very different from making a serious intellectual critique of a specific behavior or problem.

Or, what audi alteram partem said.

For those who are celebrating today, have a happy World Humanist Day!

I'd like to catch a thread on humanism someday. I have some issues with it as I understand it, but admittedly, I need to learn more about it.
posted by Miko at 8:26 AM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can't we all just agree to not make fun of people, even though we think we're more rational or whatever?

I agree, but no. It's moot. MetaFilter's members enjoy mocking other people, and MetaFilter's moderation allows mockery of some people. Draw that Venn diagram, and there's enough overlap that MetaFilter will always have a couple threads mocking people. Speaking for myself, it's not the mockery that's grating so much as the, "Yeah, mockery is cruel and it reduces us—oh, except for toward those people, fuck them."

I don't generally go into religious threads because the "oh man believers are so stupid and unscientific amirite" back-patting is insufferable. It's the only area where I feel "don't read the comments" applies on the site...

This sentiment often arises in religion MeTas. The trouble is that it's only half baked. Finish the thought: is it more likely that insufferableness only arises in threads about X, or that the trait permeates but is noticeable in inverse proportion to any given observer's alignment with the insufferables?
posted by cribcage at 9:06 AM on June 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


This sentiment often arises in religion MeTas. The trouble is that it's only half baked. Finish the thought: is it more likely that insufferableness only arises in threads about X, or that the trait permeates but is noticeable in inverse proportion to any given observer's alignment with the insufferables?

I don't really care why it happens so much as I care about how to make it not happen.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on June 21, 2015


is it more likely that insufferableness only arises in threads about X, or that the trait permeates but is noticeable in inverse proportion to any given observer's alignment with the insufferables?

No actually. I think most people here are pretty cool, open-minded and respectful of diversity. When people make disrespectful comments about any number of ways of life there will invariably be pushback and mod intervention. It's only in religious threads that people seem to feel there's carte blanche to be as smugly rude, patronising and offensive as they like because after all "we make fun of Christians here." It seems (to me) to be practically a site ethos and one that's particularly galling to some of us, irrespective of religious/spiritual beliefs.
posted by billiebee at 9:20 AM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Republicans/Conservatives and people who are perceived as in opposition to social justice beliefs get widely mocked on a similar level to religious people I think, maybe more. It's a combination of people believing those views are offensive and wrong and that not many of those sorts of people are present here.

Religious people shouldn't really be lumped in with that because there is so much positive and redeeming about religion in comparison to those other groups and because there are a lot more religious Mefites than people seem to think.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:27 AM on June 21, 2015


Miko: For most of the athiests I know, atheism is at best a heuristic, one that offers itself when they begin to entertain doubt

Do you mean that these people started off as believers, and then turned into atheists?

We attach ourselves emotionally more to some people than others. None of this is rational, and most of us do all of those things.

Forming personal connections helps us in so many ways that it's quite rational.

One thing I find that hardcore activist-atheists have a hard time understanding is that for me, and many other religious people, religion does not have to function in our lives as a set of beliefs.

If there are no beliefs involved, I would personally not call it a religion. As I understand religion (but we may use the word differently in my language) beliefs are at its very core.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:33 AM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


> If there are no beliefs involved, I would personally not call it a religion. As I understand religion
> (but we may use the word differently in my language) beliefs are at its very core.

To expand just a bit on the Thomas Merton epigram that clavivs posted above, believing does not require making any claim about the natural universe explored by science or even any hypothetical supernatural universe or immaterial being to believe in. It often does, but that's happenstance. Likewise, loving can be done without having any particular love object; it's a state of being. Praying can be done without there being any sort of entity for one to pray to.
posted by jfuller at 9:51 AM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Praying can be done without there being any sort of entity for one to pray to.
I think I'd call that expressing hope, or maybe meditation.
And no, I would not call it love if there is no object, although it may be a very broad one, such as humanity.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:55 AM on June 21, 2015

As I understand religion (but we may use the word differently in my language) beliefs are at its very core.
I think that's because you live in a society where Christianity totally frames understandings of religion. I'm not sure it's true of, say, Hinduism. So, for instance, this interesting article on Hinduism says:
In the U.S. context, the need to “explain” the tradition comes from many sides. Friends and colleagues ask, “What do Hindus believe?” Visitors to the new temples ask, “What are the basic beliefs of Hinduism?” The second generation of American-born Hindus ask their parents, “What does it mean to be Hindu?” Their classmates at school ask them, “What is Hinduism?"....Hinduism has never been a “creed” with a set of beliefs, but rather a culture and way of life. However, the demand for a clear, unambiguous “definition” of religion has become ever more insistent with the rise of more fundamentalist voices in many religious traditions. In the U.S. context today, Hindus find themselves articulating Hindu “beliefs.”
Basically, those of us from minority religious traditions find ourselves trying to respond to criticism by atheists (and others) whose ideas about religion are totally defined by Christianity. It's pretty frustrating. And as a Jew who doesn't believe in God, I feel a lot more solidarity with fellow Jews whose beliefs are being mischaracterized and attacked than with fellow atheists who are acting like ignorant assholes. So if a person thinks there's some contradiction between being a rabbi and believing in science, I really don't feel like I'm a member of their club, even though most rabbis have different beliefs than I do about the existence of God.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:02 AM on June 21, 2015 [26 favorites]


I realize that you don't live in the US, btw. The article is about the US, but I think that Christianity dominates ideas about religion in Europe as well.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:04 AM on June 21, 2015


Yes, I think that the false dichotomy between "science" and "religion," as well as the demonstrably wrong and fairly American reduction of religions to "belief" and "irrational explanations" is a huge part of why threads on religions that aren't hyper-specific go south. Too many people who know nothing about religions have aggressively strong opinions on them. There is a serious confusion between "American fundamentalist Christianity" (or, sometimes, "global fundamentalist Islam" that confuses "Islam" with "...as seen in Daesh!") and "all world religions." I can halfway sympathize with that given how aggressive Christianity is in forcing itself into all kinds of public spheres in the US, but it too often goes beyond expressing frustration at that, specifically, into being ignorant about huge portions of human culture, history and activity generally.
posted by byanyothername at 10:54 AM on June 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


ArbitraryAndCapricious: I think that's because you live in a society where Christianity totally frames understandings of religion.

Totally... no. This is a pretty secular society. But mostly... yeah, sure. Personally I was lucky to get some decent education on most of the bigger religions when I was 8 - 10 years old. I still profit from that, quite often.

The parts of being, say, Jewish or Hindu that do not relate to any beliefs would for me be classified under culture, not religion. So I would say that Judaism is a culture as well as a religion. And if a Jew would take part in the cultural parts, but not the religious parts, then I would not call that person religious.

Now that I think about it, the only religion that does not seem to have a strong cultural component might be Christianity... but then again, it's possible that it does have one but I don't notice it as much because it's still the undercurrent in the society I live in. In any case, I can't imagine anyone who is a Christian but does not believe in a god / is not religious.

Again, I may very well use these words differently than other people do, and you won't hear me say that my way is the only correct way.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:20 AM on June 21, 2015


Now that I think about it, the only religion that does not seem to have a strong cultural component might be Christianity... but then again, it's possible that it does have one but I don't notice it as much because it's still the undercurrent in the society I live in.

Yes, the very fact that you can think Christianity is the one neutral, culturally unmarked religion shows exactly why, even though you live in a secular society, it's a secularism that exists in a Christian cultural context, and defines itself through its relationship with Christianity.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 12:33 PM on June 21, 2015 [22 favorites]


Today was a beautiful Summer Solstice. Sun was shining, blue skies, warm as it gets for a Nordic country. Went for a walk with my daughter as she danced and played Red Balloon by Charli XCX on my mobile phone. I remember my time as a practicing Wiccan on the solstices (and equinoxes, and full and new moons), and recall with fondness the folks in my coven. People who ranged from middle aged to college aged, coming from many different walks of life. All just wanting to get together to celebrate the metaphorical feminine and masculine elements of the universe, and use a form of ritualized intent of focus to achieve aims such as healing others, divination, and assisting in the achievement of practical goals (I mean, you didn't just cast a spell and wait for a job or a boyfriend to fall out of the sky, you know; you still had to do the work). Lovely, unserious, genuinely caring people. You didn't pay anything, you didn't try to convert anyone, and you stood up for decidedly progressive issues.

I didn't visit the thread on the Blue, and didn't see this thread until just now. I'm glad, too, because this has been a perfect day overall, and not even a sea of strawmen can ruin the afterglow. All I'll say is, I know a lot of people are harmlessly ridiculous - like jugglers, or unicyclists, or Wiccans - but I like to remind myself before I drop a snide remark that this world could use a whole lot more harmless ridiculous fun, and really, what's the point of sneering at it?

BB, all.

*pour pineapple juice on head, honks bicycle horn*
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 1:24 PM on June 21, 2015 [21 favorites]


Strangely stunted trees: Yes, that makes sense. Now the interesting part (to me) is finding out which parts of my culture have roots in religion and are thus linked to Christianity.
Well, our cities and villages have churches. Every one of them.
But that's the only thing I can think of. It would probably be easier to see for an outsider... I should ask someone from a different culture when I get the chance.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:24 PM on June 21, 2015


Christianity absolutely does come with a cultural component, it may be harder for some people to perceive because it is the predominant culture in much of the western world but it is there and referred to in things like "In God We Trust" being inscribed on money, the christian god being referenced in national anthems, the geographically central location of churches in many towns and cities, the impossibility of a non-christian becoming the head of state, the presence of 'divinely' ordained monarchs, etc.
posted by dazed_one at 1:29 PM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, I'd posit that while a lot of western countries are more secular than many non-western nations, all states still have quite a ways to go before they can be considered truly secular.
posted by dazed_one at 1:37 PM on June 21, 2015


Too-Ticky: "Now that I think about it, the only religion that does not seem to have a strong cultural component might be Christianity... but then again, it's possible that it does have one but I don't notice it as much because it's still the undercurrent in the society I live in.

Do the Dutch no longer have Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet?

In any case, I can't imagine anyone who is a Christian but does not believe in a god / is not religious.

I'm an atheist, but I can clearly see that Christianity heavily influences my philosophical beliefs and world view. American society is steeped in it. I'm steeped in American society. Even though I don't believe, it's important for me to remember that many people in my life share that social context. So just as I wouldn't get into a shouting match with my next door neighbor about religion, I'm not going to get into a shouting match about it here, either.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:43 PM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


To come full circle, double block and bleed, isn't it interesting how those christian cultural landmarks of Christmas and Santa Claus (as well as so many others) were co-opted from pagan cultural celebrations?
posted by dazed_one at 1:47 PM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


> would for me be classified under culture, not religion.

Heh. Cricket, you must not classify.
posted by jfuller at 2:03 PM on June 21, 2015


Do the Dutch no longer have Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet?

Ayup, we do, great example! Also Carnaval which is strongly linked to Catholicism.
And I've thought of another thing: even those of us who aren't Christians can often be heard saying things like 'Godzijdank' (thanks be to God), and many of our curses are religious in nature too. (The others usually refer to diseases.)
And many of our expressions come from the Bible... for example, being lazarus means being very drunk. Being rut or rutje means being broke. Jeremieren means to moan or complain. A Judas is a traitor. a Jobstijding is bad news. And we have lots of sayings referencing the Devil.
The longer I think of it, the more I find...
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:05 PM on June 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


The difficult thing about that thread is that some of those jokes early on are loving, laughing-with-you riffs on Wiccan culture, which I think are totally fine and funny. But that set the table for unfunny chinbeards to tromp in thinking it was open season on believers. This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:22 PM on June 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


I know you are not that ignorant.

Where is the proof? This is false. You are wrong, and you have no evidence. You do NOT know if they are that ignorant.

QED-I won the internet.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:35 PM on June 21, 2015


This was comment #15: "Wicca was invented around the same time Scientology was, and deserves to be treated with the same respect...
posted by Sys Rq at 2:40 PM on June 19
[9 favorites +] [!]"


The unfunny comments started early.
posted by zarq at 3:54 PM on June 21, 2015


That's definitely the worst one. It was like 15 jokes, 8 decent ones, 1 good one, 5 OK ones and then TURD.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:58 PM on June 21, 2015


I could argue that the religious person is more harmful because at least 97% of scientists have the balls to denounce the climate denier and a goodly portion of the populace does as well. We can all say the climate denier is a nutter, but say that about someone who is religious you are either a bigot or making an attack on Christmas. Also, climate deniers don't tend to touch small children (but they are just as likely to hate women and gays).

There is a difference between "religious" and "fundamentalist."

Also, your understanding of modern Judaism is... deeply lacking.
posted by zarq at 4:07 PM on June 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


For people claiming to fight the cultural supremacy of Christianity, lots of Internet-style Atheists definitely refuse to perceive cultural phenomena by way of anything but their bad experiences with Christianity. From my perspective as a person who was never asked or expected to Believe In God by anyone of influence, the focus on Christianity in all things Atheist has always been alienating. To join an atheist discussion on its side would make Christianity bigger and more significant in my life and if I wanted that, I’d just convert. At least that comes with bake sales and access to a basement.
posted by griphus at 4:59 PM on June 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Do you mean that these people started off as believers, and then turned into atheists?

I understand the gambit here - challenging whether atheism or deism(small d)/animism is conceived as the default state of human worldview. Like I said, I'm not going to get into it except to say: no, I don't mean that. I mean what I said - that atheism, as it's laid out as a set of arguments in Western pop culture today, MeFi included, is, for most of its adherents, a heuristic.

I would personally not call it a religion. As I understand religion (but we may use the word differently in my language) beliefs are at its very core.

That's great that you have your own way of categorizing things, but it's actually not up to you to decide for others what is and isn't a religion.
posted by Miko at 5:05 PM on June 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


*I should have said theism not deism
posted by Miko at 5:11 PM on June 21, 2015


I mean what I said - that atheism, as it's laid out as a set of arguments in Western pop culture today, MeFi included, is, for most of its adherents, a heuristic.

Not to put you on the spot but what does this mean exactly? Like I understand what a heuristic is but I’m not sure what you mean that atheism is used as one.
posted by griphus at 5:13 PM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Unless you are conflating a reactionary atheism with a, for the lack of a better term, inherent one.
posted by griphus at 5:19 PM on June 21, 2015


No, I mean that when people espousing atheism as a worldview cite scientific thinking as their support, it's usually not the case that they've taught themselves science and philosophy from first principles. They're accepting at least some principles on trust and faith, without having done the homework themselves; they're at the end point of a centuries-long chain of processes. The shortcut is to point to that chain and say "this is what I accept as my starting point. I trust the people who have done this work."

I grew up the daughter of an engineer in a social world of engineers, and spent time around physicists and some biologists and botanists, too. I have noticed that many people like them, whose lives and careers have positioned them neck-deep in science as a practice, tend to allow for a lot more possible range of phenomena than many reductionist activist-athiests without that training do. I'm not a scientist, but I do know enough science to know that many atheist-activists who rail against the anti-science aren't scientists, either.

I think if we can approach metaphysical conversations with (a) a basic degree of respect for the simple humanity of our interlocutors and (b) good faith that they aren't adhering to their worldview out of cussedness, stupidity, conformity or callousness, we would stand a chance to build something like the human utopia humanists sketch for us. If not, then no, we're not going to get there.
posted by Miko at 6:39 PM on June 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


They're accepting at least some principles on trust and faith, without having done the homework themselves; they're at the end point of a centuries-long chain of processes. The shortcut is to point to that chain and say "this is what I accept as my starting point. I trust the people who have done this work."

Well, I trust scientists and engineers because they can make computers and spaceships and cure diseases. I can verify that, I don't have to take it on faith. Science has results. When a religion comes up with a similar verifiable miracle I will offer them the same trust.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:42 PM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


And nothing negative can ever flow from such blind trust? "I can make a computer! Accept all my plans and ideas now." Scientists also make deadly weapons and the technology to spread diseases, after all.

Seriously, I don't want to get into it. Here's the thing: Nobody's asking for your trust. Keep it. You don't have to live any other way than you want to. But don't be convinced that your thinking is of so much greater value than others' ways of living. Allow people, as human beings, to construct the world variously and recognize that no form of total thought control, even one which seems to you very very good on its face, is positive in the end.
posted by Miko at 6:47 PM on June 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


..and some of the "miracles" science can't produce are things like generating individuals not related or otherwise connected to you to spend their free time holding your hand while you recover from your last chemo treatment, wrapping your newly adopted child in a blanket they helped to make, or standing with you to honor and mourn the loss of a parent or child.

This is one reason why the reductionist view of "religion" as "belief" system will be shrugged off by many: the rewards of a religious community are too real, too important, too pragmatically useful to be dismissed so lightly as inferior. No, you don't need a religious community to achieve those rewards, but in my experience both in and outside of religious communities, there are not many other social organizations that make caring for one another with support, counseling, donations, and ethical guidance as available to so many people, especially marginalized people.
posted by Miko at 6:55 PM on June 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


You kind of just launched off about stuff that wasn't really in my comment at all so if you reply directly to me further I'd ask you to try and focus on what I've said and nothing more. I did not suggest blind faith in science to do good, I pointed out that science provides tangible proof of it's results. I trust that it has a track record of often accomplishing the things it claims to because I can see them with my own eyes.

That doesn't mean blind faith in it doing good any more than faith in religion means blind faith that God will only do good. I'm Catholic. My Church taught me God blew up a whole city or two over fornication or whatever and drowned the whole world. Science has some catching up to do in the evil department compared to world drowning as far as I'm concerned. And let's not even start on the actions of the followers. It's not all blankets for newborns. Forces that bring people together for good can bring them together for evil as well. And you say...religion is especially good at it? But still, I'm Catholic.

..and some of the "miracles" science can't produce are things like generating individuals not related or otherwise connected to you to spend their free time holding your hand while you recover from your last chemo treatment, wrapping your newly adopted child in a blanket they helped to make, or standing with you to honor and mourn the loss of a parent or child.

I've seen social media technology leveraged to help produce some of that, sometimes in my own family regarding a tragedy involving cancer. Religion can help connect people. Technology and science can too. I'm not against either.

"Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed"

It's a good policy, if you are gonna spend the next 2000 years not giving people more verifiable miracles to see. So, I'm Catholic on faith. I believe in the scientific method because of observable results. These are very different beliefs. The reason I made my original comment was because I interpreted you as not appreciating why people see science that way. It's not about knowing the how, it's just seeing a claim backed up with results.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:50 PM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


So a rabbi, a priest, and a punchline walk into a bar ...
posted by Xavier Xavier at 8:33 PM on June 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I interpreted you as not appreciating why people see science that way.

Interpret me as someone who's been around the block. There's no need to cover elementary ground: SCIENCE BAD, RELIGION GOOD or vice versa. We can be doing better than that. You can argue with old comments in my user history if you want to; I don't plan to put a lot more energy into it than I already have.

I'm not here to tell you you're wrong. I'm here to ask you - anyone, everyone - to not tell other people their practices are ridiculous.
posted by Miko at 8:34 PM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Okay, well, I didn't and don't so we are in a state of mutual agreement and understanding. :)
posted by Drinky Die at 8:53 PM on June 21, 2015


In the end we're all naïve realists (maybe. what the hell do I know?)
posted by um at 9:05 PM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Miko: I understand the gambit here - challenging whether atheism or deism(small d)/animism is conceived as the default state of human worldview.
What? No. I just meant, you used the word doubt, and there has to be something to doubt, right? If one has always been a non-believer, and remains that way, what's to doubt? I'm talking about individuals here, like you were.

it's actually not up to you to decide for others what is and isn't a religion.
I know, and I said as much.
But I'll bow out now because much of what you're saying goes right over my head. I'm sorry, I can't converse on your level in a foreign language.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:44 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


The unkind atheism here replicates some of the least attractive facets of Christianity.

For instance, binary thinking. My hunch is that cjorgensen grew up in a house where people were thought to come in two flavors. Good people who accepted Jesus, and bad people who didn't. Then cjorgensen grew up, left the church, and decided people come in two flavors: good people who accept atheism, and bad people who don't.

Also: a very flat, emotion-based idea of what religion can be. Evangelical Christians and evangelical atheists are obsessed with belief. But speaking as a secular Jew, I don't see belief as the beating heart of religion. Like Batman said, "It's not what I am underneath, but what I do that defines me." Religion is about action, culture, ancestors, and community. When I participate in Jewish ceremony, I feel a connection to my ancestors, and a big celebratory "fuck you" to the centuries-worth of people who tried to wipe my ancestors off the face of the earth.

So cjorgensen, when a guy with a claim to The One True Way tells Jews that we are less-than for not observing your way of living in the world, you don't only come off as unkind and ignorant, you also replicate one of the worst qualities of the religion you've supposedly left behind.

And Metafilter, I just can't believe that comments like jacqueline's and cjorgensen's are allowed to stand. "We mock Christians, so it's OK to mock Wiccans"? "Religious people are irrational, harmful and should be ridiculed"? "A rabbi is as irrational and harmful as a climate change denier"? I'm not sure I want to be a part of this conversation much longer.
posted by feets at 1:36 AM on June 22, 2015 [20 favorites]


Too-ticky, a lot of Western cultural concepts are arguably inherited from Christianity.

Two examples:

1. The idea that history is a linear progression heading towards utopia. Pre-Christians thought of time as cyclical. Christians thought we were heading towards the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. The secular West thinks that we are going to attain some kind of technological utopia.

2. Where many pre-Christian cultures saw animals, plants and places as being alive and meaningful, Christianity restructured the paradigm so that the human soul was considered very alive and meaningful, and other things were considered sort of...products for the human soul to use. The secular west has taken this to an extreme with our current consumer behaviors.

I'm sure there's a lot more than that too. So much of our culture has revolved around Christianity for so long, it's like the old joke. One fish says "how's the water?" and the other fish says "what's water?"
posted by feets at 1:55 AM on June 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Is it possible to create a mechanism for that?

What you do, see, is you make a circle of salt, and inside the circle you place a cup of wine, and then you peel an apple in one long strip and then you face west, throw the peel over your left shoulder so it lands inside the circle without knocking the cup over, and the peel will spell out the name of a mod, and you give the mod the wine and they'll dream about the comment you want them to delete.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:54 AM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wow, where do I start? You don't need to mark the circle with anything. You face east to start new endeavors; west is for closure. The peel does not literally spell the mod's name; it lands in a quadrant of the circle you have already demarcated for a mod. And that's without me pointing out how you completely left out the Calling of the Quarters, the Invokation of the Lady and Lord, or even closing the circle again with blessings and thanks.

Do you even cast?
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:44 AM on June 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


Maybe blame, or suspicion.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:55 AM on June 22, 2015


Do you even cast?

No, I'm a fighter. Go ask the rabbi - apparently he's multi-classed.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:02 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


*challenges Miko's past comments to a walk off*
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:18 AM on June 22, 2015


What? No. I just meant, you used the word doubt, and there has to be something to doubt, right? If one has always been a non-believer, and remains that way, what's to doubt?

Yeah, that's what my comment relates to, but I'm happy to chalk it up to language barrier. Some people think nonbelief is the default state of human metaphysics. Some think animism/theism is. People make meaning and will always make some form of meaning with what is available to them. There is some science that suggests that humans were selected for religious belief, but it's not conclusive. There is a lot of evidence for animism as a widely shared component of human worldview cross-culturally and historically. Anyway, though it's possible to have never believed in the dogma of any particular religion and thus have no particular denominational creed to doubt, humans still mostly all experience similar forms of cognition and part of understanding the world as an adult is to test prior theories - to engage in the process of doubt and evolve one's view. Everyone who is capable of learning experiences doubt.
posted by Miko at 5:35 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like that metafilter doesn't want to descend into pile-ons of gratuitous insults to its religious members.

At the same time, to me personally it's an open question whether religious belief and affiliation in most forms is undesirable, even non-fundamentalist varieties.

I hope that topic could be discussed here, without a hard consensus forming that of course atheists who object to non-fundamentalist varieties of religious belief and affiliation are merely expressing prejudice.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 5:40 AM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


At the same time, to me personally it's an open question whether religious belief and affiliation in most forms is undesirable, even non-fundamentalist varieties.

I hope that topic could be discussed here, without a hard consensus forming that of course atheists who object to non-fundamentalist varieties of religious belief and affiliation are merely expressing prejudice.


How is "all varieties of religious belief and affiliation are undesirable" not, itself, a form of fundamentalism?

Also, this hypothetical conversation you describe would be a lot more possible if it didn't seem like a good portion (or maybe just a very vocal portion) of metafilter atheists denounce all religious practices based on fundamental misunderstandings of what members of those religions actually believe.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:28 AM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I hope that topic could be discussed here, without a hard consensus forming that of course atheists who object to non-fundamentalist varieties of religious belief and affiliation are merely expressing prejudice.

Knowledgeable, thoughtful, non-condescending discussions are generally welcomed.

Inaccurately equating the worst of religious extremism (especially that which only applies to one or more flavors of Christianity,) with all religions and theists tends to poison the well.
posted by zarq at 6:40 AM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I hope that topic could be discussed here, without a hard consensus forming that of course atheists who object to non-fundamentalist varieties of religious belief and affiliation are merely expressing prejudice.

I mean I guess this revolves entirely around what you mean by "object" and "prejudice." If a person about whose religion you know nothing save that it checks off the requisite "must believe in divine" box and you put them in the "objectionable worldview" category and interact with them as if they are steadfastly ignorant about a universal truth (atheism, in this case) to which you have access, then, yes, that is straight-up prejudice. Maybe not merely prejudice, but it is certainly the judgment of a person based on preconceived opinions not necessarily rooted or reflected in fact. From what I understand, that's basically the dictionary definition of "prejudice."
posted by griphus at 7:19 AM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm glad this thread happened so I could learn it's not okay to mock wiccans but home schooling is open for sneering. Maybe someone could update the wiki.
posted by phearlez at 8:17 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Many people have poorly trained dogs. In the huge majority of cases this has no impact on other people and having the dog helps get them through life in comfort. Occasionally their dog attacks other people and people get hurt. I'd rather people always make sure their dog is trained but I don't go around telling off everyone I know who has a poorly trained dog because that would be ridiculous - almost no-one trains their dog properly and most can still exercise enough control to make sure their dog doesn't harm other people.

Many people have beliefs based on irrational concepts. In the huge majority of cases this has no impact on other people and gets them through life in comfort. Occasionally their belief system gets imposed on other people and people get hurt. I'd rather people's actions were dictated by rationality but I don't go around telling every theist I know off for being irrational because that would be ridiculous - almost everyone has irrational beliefs and most can have those beliefs without imposing them on other people.

I try not to make fun of either (but I will laugh when the dog poops on the rug), because people need the things that give them comfort.
posted by dazed_one at 8:34 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


How is "all varieties of religious belief and affiliation are undesirable" not, itself, a form of fundamentalism?

I carefully wrote "most forms," so that was rude.

I don't see that it's fundamentalism to object to most religious belief and affiliation based on reasons, e.g., that it's undesirable that so many align with whatever the belief set of their parents happened to be, or that it's unfortunate to give too much respect to questionable religious texts and/or institutions.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 8:50 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Knowledgeable, thoughtful, non-condescending discussions are generally welcomed.

That's overall my experience, but I was pushing back against a seeming consensus that atheism is typically highly similar to religious fundamentalism and that being generally critical of religious belief and affiliation is invariably prejudicial and ignorant.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 8:54 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


...that it's undesirable that so many align with whatever the belief set of their parents happened to be, or that it's unfortunate to give too much respect to questionable religious texts and/or institutions.

I mean you could apply that same logic to anyone who has placed trust in the law and government. There are just as many belief sets and texts and institutions in our society descending from lawmakers and enforcers as there are from the clergy, and we have more than enough historical precedent indicating that you can take religion out of the equation and the government will still go on to do questionable things to its citizens.
posted by griphus at 8:58 AM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


we have more than enough historical precedent indicating that you can take religion out of the equation and the government will still go on to do questionable things to its citizens

I don't disagree with everything you've said so far, griphus, but in this instance the same argument could be made about gun ownership. We have a lot of evidence demonstrating that people will still continue to kill each other if guns were taken out of the equation, but easily obtainable firearms certainly do make it easier. For example, I daresay the arguements against gay marriage would be a lot harder to make if the religious crutch wasn't propping up much of its base of support.
posted by dazed_one at 9:17 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


you could apply that same logic to anyone who has placed trust in the law and government.

I'm not sure exactly what you had in mind by "trust," but one probably should apply a similar logic to those who unquestioningly believe the laws and government they happened to grow up with are preferable to other systems of law and government.

Of course many don't believe their religious traditions are preferable in any way to other traditions, but that doesn't avoid the worry about affording too much respect to the religious texts and institutions that are used by those who do hold their traditions superior.

These aren't worries that solely apply to evangelical Christianity.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 9:17 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


For me part of the difficult thing about atheism vs. religion discussions on the internet is how easy it is to get caught up in the "but how similar and different are they" spiral of volleying analogies back and forth; folks get wrapped up in that and so essentially end up getting pretty distracted and waylaid from a simple, practical "maybe we can just be decent and accommodating to one another as people on a website we all like" notion that's basically the core actual policy position Metafilter has on the subject.

Because it really, really does not matter whether you think one specific kind of belief or non-belief is like another one and different from a third one in way x or y or z for you to be able to not be a jerk about it. There's no "yes, but..." response to "just don't be a jerk about it"; either someone's saying, fine, I'll try not to be a jerk, or they're not.

Religion is a big complicated topic, and I have all kinds of personal feelings about it and life experiences, many negative, that tie to the subject. And I'm really unambiguously atheist in my worldview. But I would much, much prefer hearing folks have interesting, thoughtful conversations about differing beliefs and systems thereof and the cultural and historical and personal contexts behind all that than to hear people I might agree with ideologically or metaphysically be dickish about it to people I don't and vice versa.

And there are people in the world, and so people on the internet, who are just dispositionally, unflinchingly dicks about their religion or their spiritual beliefs or their atheism. They exist, and they'll continue to exist. I don't think we have very many of them at all actively participating on Metafilter, but we do see a fair amoutn of a weaker variation of dickery where folks who aren't inherently crappy about such things still lapse sort of thoughtlessly into being crappy about this stuff sometimes. And it bums me out, because it's so avoidable, and it's so not what I come here for.

Metafilter does not need to be and should not be a turf war about this stuff. Let the Richard Dawkinses and Pat Robertsons of the world be odious elsewhere; Mefites are very much capable of better in how they approach the subject.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:20 AM on June 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


> but home schooling is open for sneering

Yeah, that bothered me quite a bit, too. It's a slight derail, but I would like to point out that, yes, home schoolers or (in my case) people who were home schooled are also your fellow members. The stereotype that we're undereducated, maladjusted, social rejects is tiresome.

I was home schooled entirely. Well, until I entered university at 16 with a full scholarship and went on to a rewarding career and social life. My older brother was also entirely home schooled, by the way. And he dropped out of university after only two years. Uh oh! He's also the most personable, outgoing person I know, is widely considered one of the best in the world in his field, and recently won a MacArthur Fellowship ("Genius Grant").

Now, my younger brother has been struggling a bit more. You know, not as much easy opportunity, the economy has been worse, etc. Oh, and he actually went to public school, but that's probably unrelated.

Just, c'mon people, try to remember that home schooling is not intrinsically bad. It's only as good, or bad, as the parents' motivation and commitment.
posted by gilrain at 9:22 AM on June 22, 2015 [15 favorites]


Let the Richard Dawkinses and Pat Robertsons of the world be odious elsewhere

There is a cost to potentially overemphasizing the preservation of the feelings of religious believers. Take away some of Dawkins's manner of expression and I believe he has ideas worth considering (not so much for Robertson).

In my ideal metafilter, it shouldn't be beyond the pale to assert that religious leaders and climate denialists are cut from the same cloth. Readers might disagree, but the viewpoint is being characterized as inherently uncivil. I think that goes too far.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 9:37 AM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


There is a cost to potentially overemphasizing the preservation of the feelings of religious believers.

But it's not clear to me what the cost is, on Metafilter, to Metafilter, of merely emphasizing the value of being decent about it here.

That we have a general expectation here that people will be decent to one another on the site and not lazily mock belief structures they disagree with is not an argument that that should be the rhetorical model of the world as a whole, and I don't think anybody who spends time on the site regularly believes otherwise. We're not trying to fix or save or set policy for the world; we're talking about what makes the actual conversations that take place in this one little corner of the internet better or worse as a part of what happens within this specific community.

In my ideal metafilter, it shouldn't be beyond the pale to assert that religious leaders and climate denialists are cut from the same cloth.

Which is again basically entirely aside from the question of whether it sucks to have people be like "lol wicca" or "lol skywizards" or so on on the site, which is where this conversation started, is what I'm getting at with the point about getting distracted from "let's be decent to one another here" by arguments about how yes but actually related-thing-x is bad and deserves criticism or whatever.

I don't think personally that there's anything inherently uncivil about critical commentary about religion. I also don't think that's primarily the issue we have with discussion of religious stuff on Metafilter going badly.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:46 AM on June 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


In my ideal metafilter, it shouldn't be beyond the pale to assert that religious leaders and climate denialists are cut from the same cloth. Readers might disagree, but the viewpoint is being characterized as inherently uncivil. I think that goes too far.

The problem is that your hypothetical statement appears to be based in ignorance. It can't be applied to mainstream Judaism. Nor can the complaints about "rabbis" made by cjorgensen earlier.

There are lots of things one could conceivably object to in modern Judaism. However, mainstream Judaism is not anti-science. Neither are most theistic Jews. Most rabbis and Jewish theists would probably scoff at the idea. In the US, Jews are strongly pro-gay marriage, pro-choice and support the teaching of evolution and scientific principles in schools. Oh, and by and large we're not climate change deniers, either. And "religious leaders" is hard to apply to a mostly decentralized religion anyway.

If your problem is Christians, then say so. Jews are not Christians, and our beliefs, motivations, religious hierarchies and values often differ. Drastically, in some cases.
posted by zarq at 9:56 AM on June 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


That we have a general expectation here that people will be decent to one another on the site and not lazily mock belief structures they disagree with is not an argument that that should be the rhetorical model of the world as a whole, and I don't think anybody who spends time on the site regularly believes otherwise. We're not trying to fix or save or set policy for the world; we're talking about what makes the actual conversations that take place in this one little corner of the internet better or worse as a part of what happens within this specific community.

I flagged the post and didn't think much of it over the weekend. To say that I have some serious disagreements with Wicca as a whole is an understatement. But much of what I saw in there was both lazy and spiteful. So I flagged it for attention even though it's not my monkeys or my circus.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:07 AM on June 22, 2015


There is a cost to potentially overemphasizing the preservation of the feelings of religious believers. Take away some of Dawkins's manner of expression and I believe he has ideas worth considering (not so much for Robertson).

The thing is, is that the "manner of expression" is what most people are finding objectionable, but don't know it. The "manner of expression" is what is being complained about here, as well. You may not be thrilled with Pat Robertson's actual ideas, but I suspect you wouldn't have a problem with him expressing them if he was decent about it. You'd still disagree, but you would probably tolerate him talking about them more readily.

So the real problem isn't the ideas, it is the fervor with which some people cling to them that is the problem. Fervor that sometimes includes claiming that religious believers are on par with anti-vaxxers or lumping all theists together in terms of societal morals or claiming theists resist the scientific method or similar.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:21 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


zarq, one worry is that keeping alive religious texts, traditions and institutions, even in more moderate and modern forms, provides a breeding ground for religious reactionaries.

The movement from moderate religious practioners --> fundamentalists/reactionaries has happened en masse across many different religious traditions: Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.

So if you would, please stop goading me with: If your problem is Christians, then say so. Jews are not Christians
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 10:26 AM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


You may not be thrilled with Pat Robertson's actual ideas, but I suspect you wouldn't have a problem with him expressing them if he was decent about it. You'd still disagree, but you would probably tolerate him talking about them more readily.

So the real problem isn't the ideas, it is the fervor with which some people cling to them that is the problem.


Not arguing with your overall point at all, I just want to note that Robertson is a poor example to base it on. A lot of what he says is hate speech because a lot of his ideas are pure hate. If he was on Metafilter his ideas would correctly be deleted even if he said them politely.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:34 AM on June 22, 2015


I mean, you do understand why arguing from the position that religious leaders are destroying the world, religious institutions breed and harbor zealots and "keeping alive" these aspects of our world is hurting civilization would be considered prejudicial and uncivil right?
posted by griphus at 10:36 AM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's a fair point, Drinky Die; I stand corrected.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:37 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


The movement from moderate religious practioners --> fundamentalists/reactionaries has happened en masse across many different religious traditions: Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.

This happens with most forms of ideology, because humans tend to love feeling self-righteous and silencing the people they dislike. Communities that have attempted to eradicate religion for the sake of utopian harmony don't magically escape fundamentalist thinking. It just becomes based on other cultural markers rather than central religious texts.

A lot of religious people suck. A lot of non-religious people suck. Some people tell you you can cure your Stage 4 cancer by praying better. Some people tell you you can cure your Stage 4 cancer by eating superfoods and breathing more effectively. People tend to turn the things they believe into bludgeons. The fact that this is done with religion does not make it unique to religion.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:52 AM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


zarq, one worry is that keeping alive religious texts, traditions and institutions, even in more moderate and modern forms, provides a breeding ground for religious reactionaries.

Personally, I think it's an inane argument. Psychopathy, terrorism, conflict and war all exist in the world without being justified by religion. People are very good at finding ways to justify their insanities and inhumanity to each other.

When this argument is raised in an FPP, it can certainly be addressed. But right here and right now, the problem is that you and others are making overly wide-sweeping statements about theists and religions, without bothering to make distinctions between various types.

If someone is so deeply immersed in blind faith to their ideals that they cannot perceive nuance, that's their problem. I reserve the right to point out facts and differences and in some cases provide what is an apparently desperately-needed sense of perspective when appropriate.

So if you would, please stop goading me with: If your problem is Christians, then say so. Jews are not Christians

People in this thread, including you, have made anti-religion statements and framed them around things Christians believe. In your case, climate change denial. If you don't want to be told you're making a false equivalency when you equate Christians with theists other religions, then don't do it.
posted by zarq at 10:53 AM on June 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


It also seems like a weird time to accuse Christians of climate change denial, since the leader of the single biggest Christian denomination just came out very strongly for the need to combat climate change. There certainly are Christians who deny it, but that's hardly a defining feature of Christianity.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:57 AM on June 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


Take away some of Dawkins's manner of expression

Dawkins is always going to get a lot of pushback from some people here (including me) because he's so anti-feminist. As a nonbeliever myself, I'd like to see a better exemplar of atheism/anti-theism/anti-religious impulses in these arguments. His "ha ha you're all fools" manner of expression is no more attractive to me in areas where I might share some of his opinions than it is when he's attacking feminists.
posted by immlass at 11:05 AM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


It also seems like a weird time to accuse Christians of climate change denial, since the leader of the single biggest Christian denomination just came out very strongly for the need to combat climate change. There certainly are Christians who deny it, but that's hardly a defining feature of Christianity.

To be fair, the Catholics mostly aren't really behind the climate-change (and other science) denial, that's more the turf of the Protestant Fundamentalists/Evangelicals. The same folks generally behind Creationism and Intelligent Design. Though it's worth noting that a significant population and money behind Climate Change deniers is coming from the Big Business/Free Markets people.
*Please note my deliberate word choices of mostly, more, and generally to head off #notallxtians arguments.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:08 AM on June 22, 2015


Just, c'mon people, try to remember that home schooling is not intrinsically bad. It's only as good, or bad, as the parents' motivation and commitment.

Yeah, 'round these parts homeschooling has traditionally been done by intellectuals and hippies who didn't feel that public schools were doing enough to stimulate their kids. Homeschooling for religious reasons wasn't even on my radar until Internet message boards came along.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:21 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


To be fair, the Catholics mostly aren't really behind the climate-change (and other science) denial, that's more the turf of the Protestant Fundamentalists/Evangelicals. The same folks generally behind Creationism and Intelligent Design.

And that's kind of exactly the theists' point, that a lot of the LOLXIANS trash-talk should actually be LOLPROTESTANTFUNDIE-EVANGELICALS trash-talk - precisely because most Christians aren't behind the climate-change denial in the first place. I respect your use of the "mostly" and "generally", but that kind of distinction is actually somewhat more serious than a "notallxians" kind of thing. It'd be the equivalent of, like, saying that everyone in the entire United States eats poi or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:30 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


People in this thread, including you, have made anti-religion statements and framed them around things Christians believe. In your case, climate change denial. If you don't want to be told you're making a false equivalency when you equate Christians with theists other religions, then don't do it.

zarq, I think you've misunderstood what's been said. I didn't see anyone saying religious believers are more likely to be climate change deniers. There was a general comparison drawn between homeopathy practitioners, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers and religious believers. the comparison was supposed to about faith-based belief sets of any kind and the respect they're owed. It's just not on-topic to point out that American Jews mostly believe in climate change.

Personally, I think it's an inane argument. Psychopathy, terrorism, conflict and war all exist in the world without being justified by religion.

The normal way the argument is run is that religion has a multiplier effect, not that none of these problems exist without religion.

I hope it's not an overly obnoxious observation, but the commenters rushing to level charges of bigotry and ignorance for bringing up general criticisms of religion don't seem very familiar with them.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 11:30 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


religion has a multiplier effect

If this is even true, then set it against the fact that it has a multiplier effect on pro-social behaviors as well.

I don't think for a minute that without extremist fundamentalists we wouldn't have terrorism. Dylan Roof doesn't seem to have been motivated by religion at all. Other ideologies can always fill any yawning gaps in human hatred.
posted by Miko at 11:39 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I hope it's not an overly obnoxious observation, but the commenters rushing to level charges of bigotry and ignorance for bringing up general criticisms of religion don't seem very familiar with them.

Your hope is misplaced.

Also, come on, "rushing to level charges of bigotry and ignorance"? In a thread predicated on the hope that "maybe we could all be less knee-jerk about making fun of belief systems in the most reductionist way possible", you suggested that religious belief deserves the same amount of respect as people who refuse to believe in climate change (which, at metafilter, means none). This is not the evenhanded and rational position that you seem to think it is.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:42 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Who is actually saying that Christians are actual, literal climate change deniers? ArbitraryAndCapricious was the first person to bring that up (complaining about a bunch of other, apparently non-existent people doing it). Everyone else is discussing the "climate change denial and religion are both irrational/worthy of mockery" argument that Jacqueline brought up.
posted by grandsham at 11:45 AM on June 22, 2015


airing nerdy laundry: I didn't see anyone saying religious believers are more likely to be climate change deniers. There was a general comparison drawn between homeopathy practitioners, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers and religious believers. the comparison was supposed to about faith-based belief sets of any kind and the respect they're owed.

You're right. Well spotted.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:46 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm glad that some of those murderous officially atheist communist regimes in history didn't have a religious multiplier too.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:46 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


So are we going to use this thread to have the Religious Folks v. Atheists Cage Match For The TROOTH then?
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:49 AM on June 22, 2015


the comparison was supposed to about faith-based belief sets of any kind and the respect they're owed.

"I wish that I could tell people their views deserve no respect and their thought processes are comparable to that of child-killers and planet-destroyers without everyone getting all up in arms about it but I keep getting pushback. What gives?"
posted by griphus at 11:50 AM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


And that's kind of exactly the theists' point, that a lot of the LOLXIANS trash-talk should actually be LOLPROTESTANTFUNDIE-EVANGELICALS trash-talk - precisely because most Christians aren't behind the climate-change denial in the first place. I respect your use of the "mostly" and "generally", but that kind of distinction is actually somewhat more serious than a "notallxians" kind of thing. It'd be the equivalent of, like, saying that everyone in the entire United States eats poi or something.

I think I've again failed to clearly say what I was trying to, which was to respond to ArbitraryAndCapricious's comment about the Pope's recent writings about the environment. That's sort of a red herring when it comes to assigning beliefs to the entire Christian community, considering a wide swath of Christians don't acknowledge the authority of the Pope.
Sorry about that.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:51 AM on June 22, 2015


So are we going to use this thread to have the Religious Folks v. Atheists Cage Match For The TROOTH then?

I pretty sure we're just about to have a consensus on whether religion is good or bad so I'd appreciate it if you didn't make fun of such a potentially important historical moment.
posted by griphus at 11:52 AM on June 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


hot sjw babe: ooo baby, talk nerdy to me

me: the commenters rushing to level charges of bigotry and ignorance for bringing up general criticisms of religion don't seem very familiar with them
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:56 AM on June 22, 2015


Honestly, I feel like this has gotten pretty far afield of any sort of Metafilter-centric discussion, especially one related to the actual subject of the post. Can I suggest folks who just feel like arguing about the general issues of religious and other beliefs in a broad cultural or sociopolitical context or whatnot maybe just save that for the next time there's a thread on the blue that's actually specifically about that, and we give it a pass in here?

People can maybe either use this thread to focus more on the specific topic or just be like, okay, not much else to discuss.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:00 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think I've again failed to clearly say what I was trying to, which was to respond to ArbitraryAndCapricious's comment about the Pope's recent writings about the environment. That's sort of a red herring when it comes to assigning beliefs to the entire Christian community, considering a wide swath of Christians don't acknowledge the authority of the Pope.

Fair enough, but you by accident underscored another point: that since, as you correctly assert, a wide swath of Christians don't acknowledge the authority of the Pope, then ergo, someone making the claim that "all christians are climate-change deniers" is also an incorrect statement; because, as has been previously pointed out vis-a-vis the Pope, "not all Christians are alike."

Which makes it all the more incorrect to assume that all theists are climate-change deniers, because if there is variance even just between two groups of Christians, then there even more so variance between Christians and other religious groups.

Therefore, since (as we have established) there is variance between people of different faiths when it comes to one single issue, and even between different subsets of people in the same faith on that issue, it stands to reason that this same variance exists on other issues as well.

And therefore, since (as we have further established) these variations exist between persons of one religion and persons of another religion, justifying the mockery of one religion based on the actions of one subset of people in another religion entirely is totally freakin' stupid.

Which means, in conclusion, saying that mocking Wicca in general should be fair game because Christian fundies are climate-change deniers is even stupider on top of that.

QED, and bringing this back to the original point on the dismount.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:12 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


"someone making the claim that "all christians are climate-change deniers" is also an incorrect statement"
no-one is making this claim

"Which makes it all the more incorrect to assume that all theists are climate-change deniers"
no-one is making this assumption

"justifying the mockery of one religion based on the actions of one subset of people in another religion entirely is totally freakin' stupid."
This is not the argument that anyone is making.

"Which means, in conclusion, saying that mocking Wicca in general should be fair game because Christian fundies are climate-change deniers is even stupider on top of that."
no-one is saying this, either.
posted by grandsham at 12:17 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


If we can't feel comfortable gently lampooning things we think are silly just because some other small group of people (who may not even be around to be offended) think they're not silly, we've needlessly circumscribed conversation and debate here.
posted by killdevil at 12:21 PM on June 22, 2015


Grandsham: right upthread someone said that they don't see any difference between mocking homeopathy practitioners, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, etc. (all acceptable targets here) and mocking religious believers because they're "just as harmful and irrational" and "deserve the same lack of respect".

If we can't feel comfortable gently lampooning things we think are silly just because some other small group of people (who may not even be around to be offended) think they're not silly, we've needlessly circumscribed conversation and debate here.

If people can't tell the difference between "gently lampooning things we think are silly" and "mocking an entire religion in and of itself", perhaps they ought to reflect upon why.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:34 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


yes, I know. I made reference to her comment in an earlier comment of mine. But what she said isn't what you are saying she is saying. airing nerdy laundry said it better than me:

I didn't see anyone saying religious believers are more likely to be climate change deniers. There was a general comparison drawn between homeopathy practitioners, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers and religious believers. the comparison was supposed to about faith-based belief sets of any kind and the respect they're owed.

No-one is saying that all theists, or even all Christians are climate change deniers. You built a long logical chain that starts with an argument that no-one is making. It does not make these threads any easier when you misrepresent the comments you respond to.
posted by grandsham at 12:44 PM on June 22, 2015


If we can't feel comfortable gently lampooning things we think are silly just because some other small group of people (who may not even be around to be offended) think they're not silly, we've needlessly circumscribed conversation and debate here.

We had actual Wiccans say "hey, I'm a Wiccan, and this offended me." So, I think you may need to recalibrate both your "likely to be on Metafilter" and "gently lampooning" scales.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:46 PM on June 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


No-one is saying that all theists, or even all Christians are climate change deniers. You built a long logical chain that starts with an argument that no-one is making. It does not make these threads any easier when you misrepresent the comments you respond to.

I trusted that the general will of all the people in this discussion would be towards the fostering of further collaboration rather than the digging-in of proving one's particular side. Had I known that you were going to take more of a legalistic and semantic bent, I would have used "are akin to" rather than "are".

If such a thing is necessary for you to be receptive to my larger point - that it is grossly unfair to mock all theists because you have a quibble with only one certain subset of those theists - then I give you leave to mentally substitute "are akin to" for "are" in my statement.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:51 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


If we can't feel comfortable gently lampooning things we think are silly just because some other small group of people (who may not even be around to be offended) think they're not silly, we've needlessly circumscribed conversation and debate here.

As someone who believes in God, lolskywizard comments are not "gently lampooning", they are mocking and offensive. They're comparing my faith in something that's important to me to something ridiculous. You can think it's ridiculous all you want, but yes I am around and essentially calling me stupid is not conversation or debate, it's being a jerk.
posted by billiebee at 1:22 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do you think its possible to mock the idea of God without being offensive?
posted by Justinian at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2015


Do you think it's possible we could hew to cortex's request?
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 1:37 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I mean, sorry if I'm policing the discussion but seriously - I have seen these Atheist v. Deist slugfests uncountable times on Metafilter and they just do not go anywhere but in circles.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 1:38 PM on June 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: Had I known that you were going to take more of a legalistic and semantic bent, I would have used "are akin to" rather than "are".

I'd have appreciated that, if only because such shorthand makes things a lot harder to understand for non-native speakers of English (such as me).
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:01 PM on June 22, 2015


Do you think it's possible we could hew to cortex's request?

While I agree with you, when the topic of the thread is about the acceptability of "insulting comments" about religion it seems on-topic to me to ask whether it is possible to mock the idea of God without people seeing it as insulting?

But I'm not totally gung ho about it or anything.
posted by Justinian at 2:02 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


As an atheist, I have to say the theist side looks very reasonable here. They're not asking us to believe in their god(s) or endorse their religions, they're simply asking for basic respect as fellow community members.
posted by gilrain at 2:04 PM on June 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


I mean, the entire point of this metatalk is whether insulting comments about religion are acceptable? That isn't to say that the Metatalk hasn't gone really far afield, I just don't think my comment was part of that.
posted by Justinian at 2:04 PM on June 22, 2015


Well, that's the question isn't it gilrain? Is it intrinsically disrespectful to mock the idea of God? And if so, does that mean it should be banned on Metafilter?

My own answers would be no to both questions. People should be allowed to mock the idea of religion or God, and it should be allowed even if people find that disrespectful. But of course individual instances might cross the line into blatantly insulting and dealt with on a case by case basis.
posted by Justinian at 2:06 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


So users should be allowed to disrespect each other, but only if it isn't blatantly insulting? I don't understand.
posted by teponaztli at 2:08 PM on June 22, 2015


In my view, it's disrespectful to mock someone's closely-held beliefs when they're in the same room as you, which is how I prefer to imagine Metafilter. In an appropriate thread, one could debate or criticize, even vehemently, while avoiding mockery.

You can't talk about respect intrinsically, though, because it requires context. I can vent some steam by mocking god in a small group of friends whom I know won't take offense, and that need not be disrespectful to friends not present who would. I just view Metafilter as a place where those friends are present.
posted by gilrain at 2:13 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


What's difficult to understand? We shouldn't grant a heckler's veto to people who think reasonable things (ie mocking religion) are inherently disrespectful.
posted by Justinian at 2:13 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


In an appropriate thread, one could debate or criticize, even vehemently, while avoiding disrespectful mockery.

I suppose then we'd come down to splicing the difference between "vehement criticism" and "mockery". I'm not sure that's a bright line like you seem to think it is? So I'd err, as usual, on the side of allowing speech.
posted by Justinian at 2:15 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree that it's not a bright line in general, but the mockery of Wicca in the thread under discussion seems pretty straightforward.
posted by gilrain at 2:17 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mockery is, by definition, scornful and contemptuous. It is intrinsically disrespectful and intrinsically insulting, by design. Arguing that mockery isn't disrespectful just seems to indicate that you either don't mean "mockery" or you don't really understand what mockery is. I don't love getting out the dictionary in these arguments, but this isn't really hair-splitting.
posted by Errant at 2:18 PM on June 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


Maybe if criticism weren't framed as mockery people wouldn't take offense? I mean, you're kind of saying it's reasonable to mock something, but not reasonable to be offended by this mockery.

Maybe if we're going to err on the side of anything, let's err on the side of being respectful to the people in our little online community here? You may not have any reason to be offended, but is it possible that people can be hurt without being irrational?
posted by teponaztli at 2:18 PM on June 22, 2015


Arguing that mockery isn't disrespectful just seems to indicate that you either don't mean "mockery" or you don't really understand what mockery is. I don't love getting out the dictionary in this arguments, but this isn't really hair-splitting.

You're correct. It's not that I don't know what mockery is, it's that I think that when people say they don't want mockery they actually don't want "vehement criticism" (to use gilrain's phrase) of any sort, and would call it mockery.

But perhaps I'm being pessimistic.
posted by Justinian at 2:22 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Justinian, I think you're kind of making an effort to explode this into a much bigger philosophical debate than the practical question raised in the post is about, and that is what I was asking folks to lay off on. I know you like to chew on a good discussion point, but I also know that you know that about yourself and I'm asking you to maybe just exercise some extra impulse control on this one.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:26 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mockery is, by definition, scornful and contemptuous. It is intrinsically disrespectful and intrinsically insulting, by design. Arguing that mockery isn't disrespectful just seems to indicate that you either don't mean "mockery" or you don't really understand what mockery is. I don't love getting out the dictionary in this arguments, but this isn't really hair-splitting.

I dunno, I do loving mockery all the time. But put that aside, even if mockery is meant to offend we often make a distinction here between punching up with it and punching down. Aiming at the Catholic Church, as one example, would usually be punching up for someone raised in a country where the Church is very prominent. That same person aiming at Wicca might be punching down.

But then, there are believers in the middle taking cross punches either way when they see something they find sacred mocked. They aren't the institutional power (if their religion even has one), and they don't deserve to take the hit for things other people are doing in the name of their religion. (Mockery of Muhammad is often justified by citing the actions of terrorists, for example) At the same time, maybe they should make an effort to understand the intent is not to hurt them, but to mock the people who are doing things that reflect poorly on their faith.

And sometimes of course, the mocker is just being hurtful to all believers intentionally and that probably isn't okay for Metafilter I don't think.

I don't know where exactly the line should be drawn on what mockery is or is not acceptable, but I think some is. I feel comfortable with the moderators using their best judgement on that.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:26 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


and I'm asking you to maybe just exercise some extra impulse control on this one.

WHAT.

Bah, fine.
posted by Justinian at 2:28 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


So users should be allowed to disrespect each other, but only if it isn't blatantly insulting?

All evidence would seem to point to yes.
posted by phearlez at 2:29 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I will say that I'm sort of unclear on what, if anything, was actually decided in this thread though? Things seem to have just been left up in the air.
posted by Justinian at 2:30 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think, not just in terms of religious discussion but in terms of general civility, we could do a whole lot worse than presuming that other people in the conversation have a sense of humor, have the ability to laugh at themselves, and that when they aren't laughing it's not just because they can't handle the incisive truthbombs. I think that if we presume that people can tell the difference between mockery and gentle lampooning, and we can trust that they're not going to confuse or conflate one for the other, we're maybe less likely to feel like they're adopting a silencing tactic when they tell us that they perceive us to have said something differently than we thought we did. The only type of good faith there is is faith in the other person.
posted by Errant at 2:35 PM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


At the same time, maybe they should make an effort to understand the intent is not to hurt them, but to mock the people who are doing things that reflect poorly on their faith.

Maybe the people doing the mocking should be more specific and accurate in their complaints, instead. Perhaps blaming those being inappropriately targeted is in fact, a rude and shitty thing to do.
posted by zarq at 2:36 PM on June 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


While I agree with you, when the topic of the thread is about the acceptability of "insulting comments" about religion it seems on-topic to me to ask whether it is possible to mock the idea of God without people seeing it as insulting?

I think so, but in order to meet that bar, you need to deliver something a bit more insightful than the usual lol-religion drive-by comment.

And perhaps the best place to do it isn't in a discussion of what appears to be a case discrimination against a religious minority. People might actually want to read a discussion regarding the ethics and legality of the sale of devotional objects online rather than "religion is bad and bad for you" replay number 302.1433333...

Perhaps you could, I don't know, find your own links offering a philosophical takedown of Wiccan duotheism, gender anthropomorphism, or their metaphysics which often amounts to a watered down garbling of Dharmic philosophy via the theosophists.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:39 PM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


That's quite a cherry pick, zarq. But generally I agree.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:42 PM on June 22, 2015


Which is an all-around injunction, since not every post about atheism needs to turn into, "why is Dawkins such a dick? DBAD! DBAD! DBAD!" either. My sense is that recent months have actually been reasonably good about the idea that we can have a discussion about religion or atheism that's reasonably on-topic.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:46 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I will say that I'm sort of unclear on what, if anything, was actually decided in this thread though? Things seem to have just been left up in the air.

Mods established that we agreed that the thing going on in the thread referenced did indeed kind of suck and that we wanted people to be a little bit better about that sort of thing, i.e. sort of needless, lazy lulzing about people's beliefs. It's not a gigantic precedent (not really a precedent at all, really, since we've said it before); a Metatalk doesn't need to have some big decision. "Yes, the thing you mention is something we have a take on and here's the action we took in this case and what we'd like people try and do on the site" is more than enough for a typical thread here.

Springboarding into a larger, messier, far harder to resolve debate about the role of respect and mockery and etc. in the tense and complicated net of varying beliefs/non-beliefs in world culture and society and politics and whatnot isn't required and certainly isn't likely to get that question any more answered than it already was, but it is a great way to drag out a Metatalk long enough for it to get properly contentious and aggro once the original pretty simple question falls by the wayside in service of Yet Another Internet Argument To Finally Resolve This Whole Religion Thing. I find it deeply unlikely that this is anybody's first rodeo on this subject.

I imagine we'll have a situation in the future where a more wide-ranging throwdown on the question of religion and dialectics and yadda yadda will be actually applicable to a current site issue, but this wasn't that and I see zero reason to try and morph it into it if we don't need to.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:48 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


That's quite a cherry pick, zarq. But generally I agree.

Oh, I agreed with most of the rest of your comment.

I simply fail to see why the burden should be on me to give someone (like say, jacqueline or cjorgensen in this thread) the benefit of the doubt when they're saying things that aren't true.
posted by zarq at 2:48 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it varies on a case by case basis, but I feel like I would be getting into the weeds cortex was talking about if I took it any further. So for your concern regarding this thread, I think you were correct to point out what you did in response to their comments.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:01 PM on June 22, 2015


Thanks. :)
posted by zarq at 3:06 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


"more wide-ranging throwdown on the question of religion and dialectics and yadda yadda will be"

Really, this conversation is one of the better I've seen on the filter concerning religion.
posted by clavdivs at 8:11 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


So basically the Mohammed cartoons are OK, just not for Metafilter.
posted by Hoopo at 1:37 PM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]




I don't think Hoopo was being completely serious.
posted by Justinian at 1:50 PM on June 23, 2015


I keep messing up links on my ipad anyway. ios Chrome is kind of buggy here.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:54 PM on June 23, 2015


This is an intractable debate because no one will agree about what strictures require respect — i.e., I'll respect your faith but not your superstitions — and since we've already heard from quite a few folks pledging to a flag of universal reverence, I'll say that the vast, vast majority of things that humans do are deeply silly and benefit from being mocked by other humans. For example, Erotica Written By An Alien Pretending Not To Be Horrified By The Human Body. Religion and the rituals we create for ourselves are absurd and hilarious and keeping people honest pretty much requires irreverence. That will forever conflict with the proverbial sacred cows of whatever belief system. There are better and worse ways to make fun of this stuff, but the notion that minority religious beliefs should be exempt is a non-starter (at least in part because many minority religions are minorities because they're deeply silly — due respect to our Heaven's Gate, Reformed members).

Cortex asked what the cost was to MeFi in more reverence? Well, the cost is twofold: First, the literal cost of increasing moderation focus on stuff like this (staff time both in the actual deletions as well as the endless MeTa sinkholes) as well as a general decrease in irreverence from members, which is something that attracted many current members and is a longstanding part of MeFi culture. It makes those members feel less welcome.

I just wanted to take a little time to push back against the po-faced pronouncements about universal respect — it's cheap to extol abstractly, but what it means in practice is a deep, hard conversation. While I appreciate the notion that moderation is seeking to be more responsive to the membership, that's not possible without having a deep, hard conversation. Otherwise, it is just going to be endless heckler vetoes either from the MOAR RESPECTS or the ENFORCED JAPERY contingents.
posted by klangklangston at 10:53 PM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


PS:

"1. The idea that history is a linear progression heading towards utopia. Pre-Christians thought of time as cyclical. Christians thought we were heading towards the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. The secular West thinks that we are going to attain some kind of technological utopia."

This is not really true. First off, plenty of pre-Christians believed in non-cyclical metaphysics. Second, the idea of progress didn't gain general traction as a feature of life until around the Renaissance, when the rediscovery by Europeans of Greek and Roman scholarship upended the general conception of people in the past being roughly the same as contemporary people (e.g. the tendency of pre-Renaissance painting to depict Biblical scenes in contemporary costume). A lot of the medieval worldview was based on the notion of status quo, where professions were inherited, and that was conceptualized back to Eden. Even millenarian philosophy didn't have much of a concept of progress per se, rather the future was generally a fall from current grace (nominally prior to redemption).
posted by klangklangston at 11:02 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Religion and the rituals we create for ourselves are absurd and hilarious

In your opinion. The fact that even in a thread about religious beliefs people have repeatedly called them "silly", "absurd" and "ridiculous" as if this is a scientific fact and not a matter of opinion is one of the things that annoys me so much. Please do point me to the peer-reviewed research which finally proves once and for all that there is no God or that spells never work or whatever. I believe in science and I believe in things I can't see. The two aren't incompatible for me, and that they are for you is your business. Neither of us has to win the argument, we just have to argue in a way that isn't dickish.

and keeping people honest pretty much requires irreverence

See, this is what's been bugging me the last day or two when I've been thinking about this. I would never go into a thread about atheism and consider it some kind of duty to help people to See The Light!! but that's what I get from this kind of sentiment. It's not your duty to "keep people honest" by explaining, gently or otherwise, that they are stupid and here are the real truths. The only evangelising I see on the site is people who think they have a responsibility to let people know they are wrong when it comes to religion. It's as tiresome as it would be if religious people constantly did it to atheists.

the literal cost of increasing moderation focus on stuff like this (staff time both in the actual deletions as well as the endless MeTa sinkholes)

This thread aside, this doesn't come up all that often. I really don't see it being a big enough issue that it costs mods tons of extra time. There are hot-button topics which come up much more frequently here.

a general decrease in irreverence from members, which is something that attracted many current members and is a longstanding part of MeFi culture. It makes those members feel less welcome.

I always think the idea that being respectful of certain things = no sense of humour is a silencing tactic. Any chance we could all be made to feel welcome?
posted by billiebee at 2:19 AM on June 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


"but that's what I get from this kind of sentiment."

Sentiment is also an opinion. I see nothing in Klangs statement that refers to this subject as "stupid".
If this is what sentiment you feel is given, you are free to say so. It does not address the point he makes. A thesis has its antithesis even in reverence.
posted by clavdivs at 3:12 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see nothing in Klangs statement that refers to this subject as "stupid".

Religion and the rituals we create for ourselves are absurd and hilarious

I have made the equivalence between "absurd" and "stupid", so yes it's on me if I have drawn a link that wasn't there, apologies klangklangston. We're all free to say what we feel in Meta and I was trying to address the points he raised. That doesn't mean I'm right of course, just my opinion.
posted by billiebee at 3:26 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Claiming that sneering at and ridiculing another persons' belief system is "keeping them honest" is incredibly condescending and self-important, if not a bit delusional. It may be very satisfying to publicly point and laugh at people you find silly here on Metafilter, but all I've ever seen it accomplish is making people dig in harder, derail conversations, and foment resentment between users. I mean by all means laugh at harmful practices, but sitting in judgement and pissing on belief systems that you deem silly goes beyond what I would call respectful engagement on this site.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:34 AM on June 24, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'll say that the vast, vast majority of things that humans do are deeply silly and benefit from being mocked by other humans. For example, Erotica Written By An Alien Pretending Not To Be Horrified By The Human Body.

And yet, I bet that if you mocked a particular kind of sexual practice in here, someone who does it would also be pissed. Especially if it was the kind of mockery directed at religion - where the mockery also calls the practitioners themselves into question; it's not so much "alien erotica musing on how sexy is weird if you think about it", it's "damn, sex is so gross, people must only want to do it if they're really perverted or depraved or something".

"Humans" do weird things. But this kind of mockery is singling out SOME humans and mocking them rather than mocking a practice almost all humans do, so I'm having a hard time understanding why you you would condone it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:57 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, the cost is twofold: First, the literal cost of increasing moderation focus on stuff like this (staff time both in the actual deletions as well as the endless MeTa sinkholes)

But there is not notable increase in moderation focus on this stuff in the current situation. The answer to the original post took the form of:
- that thing you pointed out sucks according to the metrics we already follow
- I did a thing I would normally do when notified about something like that
- reminder that it'd be great for people to continue making the effort we already ask them to on this stuff

There's no increase required there, no new precedent or new moderation initiative; we're talking about stuff we have had some long hard discussions about before, and reaffirming a pretty mild guideline against just lazy, kneejerk dickery on a general subject that people have gotten better about over the last several years and that we don't, happily, end up having to spend a lot of time dealing with as it is.

as well as a general decrease in irreverence from members

In a narrow vein of "being lazily shitty about religion and beliefs". I like irreverence, I like mefites doing a good and funny and clever job of deflating things, but I also recognize that there are (a) better and worse examples of actually being funny and clever in one's irreverence and (b) different contexts where irreverence is more or less on point in a given discussion or sub-discussion.

Only if you value irreverence above all else does it make sense to hold it out as something of which losing some little sliver is inherently a cost to the site. I don't think you, personally, make that personal valuation, klang—you've been willing to call out dumb lulzy irreverent shit on a variety of topics in the past, at least—so I feel kind of doubtful about this as a concrete argument coming from you, much as I think I kind of share some of the underlying motivation of really liking it a lot of the time when Metafilter users are being the non-dick, non-lazy version of funny and sharp about something.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:35 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I also think we have to do some careful balancing between the value of irreverence and the use of irreverence to disempower people. It's not uncommon. For instance, in my work I am continually made aware of abuses of power the U.S. government and its individual agents have perpetrated on Native communities around issues of reverence and the sacred - there are people who mock designations of sacred spaces or times outright, and those who simply dismiss them in matters of policy. I understand that at MeFI there tends to be a default understanding of religious adherents as "privileged" in wider society and thus fair game for poking-at here to take them down a peg or two, but at the same time, there are also legitimate examples of people in more powerful positions denying privilege to adherents or systems that declare some less-powerful sets of beliefs and practices - or the practice of holding no conscious commitments to beliefs or practices - serious and legitimate, and others primitive, shallow, inauthentic, or ridiculous. And, speaking as someone who lives in the American epicenter of Wiccanism, there is plenty I could mock, but when I look at the individuals who practice this religion and how their life histories and personal choices brought them into that community, it doesn't look exactly funny to me. It looks like people trying to make a healthier sense of the world than the ones they grew up with, finding resonance in a set of ideas about reverence for the natural world, and linking to a supportive, open, and welcoming community who accepts them. So, ha ha? Not sure it makes any sense to go there. They're trying to get through the day like we all are, and most of what they do is either benign or positive.

I'm a critic of lots of phenomena in religion, and have little compunction about engaging in serious examinations of its failings and the moral consequences of holding shitty beliefs, as I've often shown here. At the same time, I think not ridiculing someone for simply holding what beliefs they do, in a public, earnest discussion, is a good practice that encourages wider discussion, which I value more than irreverence. Religious thinking is something people hold pretty close to their identity, and so ridiculing them comes pretty close to ridiculing their identities - something that isn't that cool in my book.

On the other hand, I'm happy to ridicule people for assholish behavior, refusal to learn, and other things we sometimes confuse with beliefs. I just don't think the beliefs themselves are really the issue.
posted by Miko at 6:30 AM on June 24, 2015 [15 favorites]


"Punch up, not down" is not a really challenging standard to hold irreverence to. The suggestion that such thoughtfulness means no levity at all doesn't pass the sniff test.
posted by phearlez at 6:42 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


proverbial sacred cows

Oh man
posted by Hoopo at 7:36 AM on June 24, 2015 [4 favorites]



proverbial sacred cows

Oh man


My minority belief that the cow is sacred is offended. I think. /hamburger*
posted by infini at 7:56 AM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Religion and the rituals we create for ourselves are absurd and hilarious

In your opinion.

...and keeping people honest pretty much requires irreverence.

Oh, bullshit. It requires no such thing. There is no, "let's be an asshole and mock people" requirement for social interaction with your fellow human beings. No one here is begging for your disparaging opinions of their beliefs and you are not being compelled to believe theirs. In 11 years on MeFi I've only seen a handful of people proselytize about their religious faiths. Every single one of them got smacked down really fucking hard by the mods. Yet when a handful of people dare to voice mild concern that a single discussion was flooded with jokes and idiotic rhetoric that might conceivably be insulting to their fellow mefites and worse, make false equivalencies between an relatively inoffensive belief system and religious extremism, what we hear in response is a self-righteous 'religious heathens need to hear the One True Word' defense? Give me a fucking break.

You might consider that many theists on Mefi have probably spent years/decades pondering their own religious/spiritual beliefs. There are plenty of mefites who are quiet theists, myself included. We have zero interest in converting anyone to our beliefs. We don't really think it's our place to preach to others. We oppose religious extremism and oppression, and say so in relevant threads.
posted by zarq at 8:39 AM on June 24, 2015 [12 favorites]


"I have made the equivalence between "absurd" and "stupid", so yes it's on me if I have drawn a link that wasn't there, apologies klangklangston. We're all free to say what we feel in Meta and I was trying to address the points he raised. That doesn't mean I'm right of course, just my opinion."

I chose the word "absurd" intentionally. Faith is definitionally absurd and irrational/arational. (A rational belief is based on evidence; if you have evidence, you're not making the leap of faith. If Abraham knows God will save Isaac, he can't faithfully enact the sacrifice — sacrificing Isaac is an absurd act, an abnegation of the promise to Abram that makes him Abraham. It's a relinquishment of the most precious and integral attribute of Abraham, that of a patriarch, and only with faith can he sincerely murder Isaac and believe that God will still make Abraham the father of nations.)

There is no religious faith without absurdity. You can either confront that, recognize that believing in a literal resurrection, that Tsangyang Gyatso pissed off a roof and sucked the piss back inside his urethra before it hit, that Joseph Smith read plates out of a magic hat, that gathering mistletoe by moonlight with a silver sickle imbues it with magic, that all of those beliefs are absurd and based on an unverifiable faith claim, or be stuck in a morass of materialism where faith will always lose.

I don't think absurd means stupid — absurd things can be profound. I do think that the absurd is almost always a legitimate source of humor, and that some of the better definitions of humor include absurdity as a criterion.

"I always think the idea that being respectful of certain things = no sense of humour is a silencing tactic. Any chance we could all be made to feel welcome?"

No. And that gets to a fundamental flaw in the "let's respect everyone" argument. I don't particularly care, as alluded above, if a fundamentalist Christian doesn't feel like their views on homosexuality are welcome in discussions on MetaFilter. There is no way to both respect literal Biblical interpretations and to have most LGBT people participate. There's no way to respect a vast swath of traditional gender beliefs embedded in the majority of religions and have full participation from women. There is no way to make everyone welcome to participate on MetaFilter or really in any sphere in which social ideas may conflict. That's why it's frustrating to see these formulations where all being welcome really does just mean adhering to the sensitivities of social democrat bourgeoisie. It's an issue that more conservative or traditional members raise regularly and their concerns are brushed off because people disagree with them about their positions, without recognizing that their fundamental arguments are generally right but that the narrative of tolerance makes MeFites skittish about actually embracing them and formulating a positive ethos (as opposed to the negative and vague "don't be an asshole").

"Claiming that sneering at and ridiculing another persons' belief system is "keeping them honest" is incredibly condescending and self-important, if not a bit delusional. It may be very satisfying to publicly point and laugh at people you find silly here on Metafilter, but all I've ever seen it accomplish is making people dig in harder, derail conversations, and foment resentment between users. I mean by all means laugh at harmful practices, but sitting in judgement and pissing on belief systems that you deem silly goes beyond what I would call respectful engagement on this site."

That's OK. Sneering at my formulation, calling it delusional and condescending, and asserting that it only makes peopled dig in further is inane and hinges on the assumption that you can both separate out laughing at harmful practices from pissing on belief systems and that you're avoiding the same trap that you're bemoaning. Not only have people said here before that, for example, atheists making fun of their religious beliefs helped them obtain a more sophisticated grasp of those beliefs, but judgment is inherent in all our treatments of belief systems, whether or not they're humorous.

"And yet, I bet that if you mocked a particular kind of sexual practice in here, someone who does it would also be pissed. "

Could be. So what? That formulation says absolutely zero about whether it's bad that this person is pissed off or whether their offense is legitimate or not. I don't care if I piss off the proverbial Bill Cosby by making fun of date rapists who drug their victims — a particular kind of sexual practice. And I would hope that most people into BDSM can recognize part of themselves in comments that make fun of fetish consumerism ("So, we're getting a home equity loan to refurb the dungeon").

""Humans" do weird things. But this kind of mockery is singling out SOME humans and mocking them rather than mocking a practice almost all humans do, so I'm having a hard time understanding why you you would condone it."

See above as for why singling out some humans is not a reason to prohibit ridicule. I mean, Christ, one of the things that people were objecting to was the comparison of Wicca to Scientology. Complaining about that implicitly ridicules Scientologists — who are some, not all, humans. There may even be Scientologist MeFites who can't bring themselves to call out that comparison. But MeFi as a community doesn't care and in general shouldn't care if Scientologists feel like their beliefs are ridiculed.

"There's no increase required there"

Yes, there is. There is an increase in mod cost required any time any mod action is taken, even if it's in line with longstanding policies. For example, spamming self links has been banned since forever. Still, deleting and banning a spammer costs MeFi resources in terms of staff time (and that $5). I mean, unless you could say that you would still be using the admin console and banning spammers as a volunteer in your free time, there is a cost associated with that moderation. There is an increase in staff cost associated with every single action you take because you're being paid for the actions you take and you can only take a finite amount of actions.

You're also reading and commenting in this thread, which again costs MeFi.

"In a narrow vein of "being lazily shitty about religion and beliefs"."

Well, no. In an increasingly broad vein, which is both poorly defined and contentious, in a context where (in other recent threads) people have said they've seen any undeleted comment as a MeFi-endorsed statement. "Being lazily shitty about religion and beliefs" is begging the question, and e.g. the Scientology comment, reasonable people can disagree about what is lazy and shitty.

"Only if you value irreverence above all else does it make sense to hold it out as something of which losing some little sliver is inherently a cost to the site."

That's not true either. I can recognize that e.g. the tendency of parliamentary systems to take longer to come to executive decisions than presidential systems is a cost to parliamentary systems even as I can recognize their benefits with regard to legislative legitimacy. But beyond that, it's that the repeated incoherent and ungrounded arguments used to justify these decisions only come close to being valid when you share a ton of dubious assumptions with the person making the argument.

"I don't think you, personally, make that personal valuation, klang—you've been willing to call out dumb lulzy irreverent shit on a variety of topics in the past, at least—so I feel kind of doubtful about this as a concrete argument coming from you, much as I think I kind of share some of the underlying motivation of really liking it a lot of the time when Metafilter users are being the non-dick, non-lazy version of funny and sharp about something."

I don't have a problem calling out dumb, lulzy shit, but generally I don't think that comments being dumb or lulzy is a problem in itself. And insofar as they're a problem in themselves, they're generally matched by demands of respect for nonsense — see the "burning times" references upthread.

As far as whether I apply make that personal valuation, that there is a cost in a broader slide toward categorizing beliefs as inherently respectable and decreasing the tolerance for irreverence, in some ways I do. The most directly connected with that would be that I'm a lot more hesitant to make fun of myself in the way that I used to, and have to invest a lot more energy into removing ambiguities, in-jokes and snark even when they're self directed, largely because of the po-faced responses I've gotten (or outright aggressive misconstruals). You can argue that some of that is good conversation, but there's also the sense that people who are meaningfully like me are using the rubric of sensitivity and tolerance to avoid being ridiculed in legitimate ways. One example would be that I've gotten aggressive pushback from other white people when joking about how whiteness is constructed, which really is using the language of propriety and respect to silence just as much as the charge that "lack of sense of humor" is used to silence. I've gotten similar pushback about stoner and liberal tropes — honestly, I'd describe it as sensitivity scaling faster than humor, given that humor almost always rests on a shared understanding. As MeFi grows, we've extended out the generally legitimate strictures of respect and sensitivity for minorities unjustly harmed into an ungrounded value statements like that we ignore as a matter of practice — minority beliefs are not respected on MeFi in general, neither in proportion to MeFi (conservatives) nor in the broader world (Branch Davidians). I kind of think that sort of abstraction ends up just as lazy and dumb as the lulzy comments.

""Punch up, not down" is not a really challenging standard to hold irreverence to. The suggestion that such thoughtfulness means no levity at all doesn't pass the sniff test."

No levity at all? Who said that?

"In your opinion."

Yup.

"Oh, bullshit. It requires no such thing. There is no, "let's be an asshole and mock people" requirement for social interaction with your fellow human beings."

I would give your opinion more credence if you were able to distinguish "let's be an asshole and mock people" from irreverence. Because keeping people honest does actually require irreverence, lest social position and stentorian tones overcome, well, the stench of bullshit. But hey, when that kid said the emperor had no clothes, he was a total mocking asshole and the vizier should have had him beheaded, right?

"No one here is begging for your disparaging opinions of their beliefs and you are not being compelled to believe theirs."

Never thought I'd hear a member of a minority religion argue that there's no such thing as normative bias in a community.

"In 11 years on MeFi I've only seen a handful of people proselytize about their religious faiths. Every single one of them got smacked down really fucking hard by the mods."

There have been more than a handful of proselytizers for atheism and they haven't been smacked down hard, unless you're making an unjustified distinction between atheists and faithful on the question of religious beliefs.

" Yet when a handful of people dare to voice mild concern that a single discussion was flooded with jokes and idiotic rhetoric that might conceivably be insulting to their fellow mefites and worse, make false equivalencies between an relatively inoffensive belief system and religious extremism, what we hear in response is a self-righteous 'religious heathens need to hear the One True Word' defense? Give me a fucking break."

Much as I love your new KitKat slogan, I can't say it's appended to a very respectful treatment of my beliefs, Zarq. Burlesquing my comments into "religious heathens need to hear the One True Word" was neither a fair reading nor a reasoned rebuttal. But wait — could you have been trying to use humor to keep me honest? I mean, you can't have been doing that — this Zarq guy said that was bullshit, and you don't want to fight with him. My hair is a bird.
posted by klangklangston at 1:45 PM on June 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


i am praying for patience right now and also the mods' sanity and also drinking heavily thank you God for inventing gin
posted by billiebee at 2:26 PM on June 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


The last time I prayed for patience on metatalk I was granted wisdom in the form of "remove from activity" and it was Good.
posted by phearlez at 2:31 PM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't have a problem calling out dumb, lulzy shit, but generally I don't think that comments being dumb or lulzy is a problem in itself. And insofar as they're a problem in themselves, they're generally matched by demands of respect for nonsense — see the "burning times" references upthread.

What "burning times" references upthread?
posted by Deoridhe at 2:34 PM on June 24, 2015

There's no way to respect a vast swath of traditional gender beliefs embedded in the majority of religions and have full participation from women.
It's nice that you're looking out for us and everything, but an awful lot of the people here who are saying that they're feeling alienated by all the religion-mocking are, in fact, women. It's sort of irritating when dudes claim that they're doing something for the benefit of women when there are a bunch of women saying that they don't want that thing done.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:39 PM on June 24, 2015 [11 favorites]


I feel like this is a time-traveling visit from the 2005-era klangklangston.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:43 PM on June 24, 2015 [10 favorites]


I thought he got rid of that cloak of Etherealness.
posted by clavdivs at 3:45 PM on June 24, 2015


I'm actually kind of wondering how to feel that my own comment wasn't addressed once in that Treaty Of Westphalia up there. Should I feel sad that he thought my comment was lame? Smug that he didn't have a comeback?....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:47 PM on June 24, 2015


Seriously klangklangston, why are you fisking this thread?
posted by Roger Dodger at 3:48 PM on June 24, 2015


I'm actually kind of wondering how to feel that my own comment wasn't addressed once in that Treaty Of Westphalia up there

Don't worry my child, he dismissed two separate points of yours! For, verily, you are one of the Chosen.
posted by billiebee at 3:51 PM on June 24, 2015


I don't particularly care, as alluded above, if a fundamentalist Christian doesn't feel like their views on homosexuality are welcome in discussions on MetaFilter. There is no way to both respect literal Biblical interpretations and to have most LGBT people participate.

No one is asking you to make fundamentalist hate-mongers feel like their views are welcome on Metafilter. People who are long-standing members who continually post in good faith are asking to be treated like community members who deserve more than default derision when important elements of their lives come up in discussion.

Many feminists are also religious. Many LGBT people are also religious. Continually implying that these are mutually exclusive characteristics is the sort of dismissive simplification that people here are objecting to.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 3:51 PM on June 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oddly, I feel if I were praying, I have faith that Klang would not yell lol butZ or swap the holy water for gin.
posted by clavdivs at 3:53 PM on June 24, 2015


That's nice clavdivs. Faith is good.
posted by billiebee at 4:00 PM on June 24, 2015


I would give your opinion more credence if you were able to distinguish "let's be an asshole and mock people" from irreverence.

Irreverence is okay. Being irreverent is really not the problem, as far as I'm concerned. A joke here or there isn't a big deal to me personally. But that's not what most of us are complaining about wrt to the thread in question, or the comments made in this thread.

Because keeping people honest does actually require irreverence

On Metafilter, people who decide that all theists need to "be kept honest" are part of the problem, I think. Because very often, as we have seen in both of these threads, that doesn't mean they are speaking righteous truths to power. Not only do they (more often than not) punch down -- which is problematic in and of itself -- they do it ham-handedly and inaccurately. When someone starts pontificating in outrage that 'all religions and religious people are like THIS" then they've usually lost the fight to be honest with themselves, much less other people. Religions are not all equivalent. Belief isn't either. Equating them on any but the most basic definitions is an idiotic endeavor, and for those of us whose beliefs are simply not imposed on others, rather offensive. As is the assumption that we somehow require intervention.

...lest social position and stentorian tones overcome, well, the stench of bullshit. But hey, when that kid said the emperor had no clothes, he was a total mocking asshole and the vizier should have had him beheaded, right?

Never thought I'd hear a member of a minority religion argue that there's no such thing as normative bias in a community.


Yes, there's normative bias. However, healthy discussion and disagreement will not be helped by hyperbolic statements that have no basis in fact.

Let's take an example from this thread. Religious people can be scientists. Some religious Jews have been scientists. Religion can clearly not only respect science but also yield to, accept and work within scientific knowledge and advancements. Judaism does so. Skepticism, questioning and learning is built into the foundation of the religion. Yet there's someone arguing upthread that rabbis (and by extension all religious Jews, I suppose,) are all anti-science in this thread. That is not conducive to a healthy conversation, or even a healthy disagreement.

There have been more than a handful of proselytizers for atheism and they haven't been smacked down hard, unless you're making an unjustified distinction between atheists and faithful on the question of religious beliefs.

My point was that the criticisms of "all religions" in this thread were of
1) beliefs that some religions do not share
2) oppressive behaviors that some religions do not preach, and some theists do not (and I think nearly every theist on MeFi does not) engage in
3) extremism that is not universal to all religions, nor, as some people seem to think, inevitable to all theists
and that
4) none of those complaints were actually happening on metafilter, And when and if they did happen, moderator intervention was rightfully swift and immediate.

If you want to abstractly argue that all religion is bad, that's fine. But MetaTalk is here to hash out policy decisions that affect the site. If you're going to argue that preaching derisive "honesty" to Mefite theists is required, then you'd best explain in no uncertain terms why, especially since people here have not asked you to do so.

Much as I love your new KitKat slogan,

This made me laugh, thanks.

I can't say it's appended to a very respectful treatment of my beliefs, Zarq. Burlesquing my comments into "religious heathens need to hear the One True Word" was neither a fair reading nor a reasoned rebuttal.

No, it seemed entirely accurate.
posted by zarq at 4:04 PM on June 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


What "burning times" references upthread?

This one and this one are the only references, so I assume it's those.
posted by homunculus at 4:30 PM on June 24, 2015


Great comments klang and zarq. Thanks for putting some real thought into it. I think people should appreciate that, agree or disagree, you aren't being dismissive of the concerns.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:06 PM on June 24, 2015


i would drink to that.
When I was in deMolay, one of the precepts called for a "reverence for sacred things". The phrase has always stuck and its explanation is quite simple. Of course this was a bunch of teenage boys cloistered in an oaken paneled room with an alter dressed in black capes and swords lamenting the death of the last Knights Templar as part of the initiation.
Sure, we did charity work ( ferrying/ unloading guns for gun shows was one.) had dances and a conclave.
No religious affiliation as they co-opt 3 religions as part of its symbolism. Mocking almost seemed natural and it was. But we still wore the stiff shoes and corduroy suits.
But the issue of mocking/ joking at the expense of certain beliefs is what the core issue is here. Maslow thought that this type of humour was cheap. Nothing philosophical or new about LOL POPE etc. that centuries of satire has not engaged.
Hey, Klang can make me feel UN comfortable and as far as a history of ploys or playing the artful dodger I won't address. IMO, it's ad hominem.
At the core, I believe he is saying one can mock as well as point out virtues or the good aspects. For example a Wiccan turned me into tea tree oil.
Some of the best advice because it was better advise from a doctor.
posted by clavdivs at 5:55 PM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wiccan turned me into tea tree oil.
Well, I hope she turned you back again, because it's hard to type when you're tea tree oil.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:14 PM on June 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


He got better.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:16 PM on June 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


In this thread: people with less willpower than even me!
posted by Justinian at 6:25 PM on June 24, 2015


Thanks homunculus; I guess I focused on the descriptions of experienced prejudice and missed they put them in the context of one of the neo-pagan inaccurate myths.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:09 PM on June 24, 2015


I know, it's all geasy.
posted by clavdivs at 7:10 PM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a discordian I demand not to be taken seriously.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 8:03 PM on June 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


I guess I focused on the descriptions of experienced prejudice and missed they put them in the context of one of the neo-pagan inaccurate myths

I wasn't referring to an inaccurate myth, but I was alluding to chilling effects on participation here.

My pony fix might be a 'turd in the punchbowl' flag.
posted by Little Dawn at 9:28 PM on June 24, 2015


I have a general question about the terms of this conversation. Do we mean beliefs or sacred religious beliefs?

If I was a Christian Republican I think I would feel more disrespected by this comment about my political goals than by invisible sky wizard comments about my religion.

I feel both positive and negative things about privileging sacred beliefs for special protection, but then so much of where Republican beliefs go wrong are cited from religious belief. It's a confusing subject for me because sacred and political is often intertwined.

Are there sacred beliefs outside of the religious context? My objection to mistreating animals isn't really religious, more ethical, but as far as personal beliefs that I actually put into action in my life I take it much more seriously than Catholicism. Is there a difference if someone who doesn't eat meat is mocked because it's a religious dietary restriction or a personal moral stand?

"You don't eat meat because you're a Seventh Day Adventist? That's ridiculous, God isn't real!"

"You don't eat meat because you don't want animals to suffer? That's ridiculous, Cows don't have feelings!"

So our first impulse is to say it shouldn't matter, don't mock or insult people's belief systems, but then...I'm not sure we follow through on that. Democrats and Republicans have deeply held beliefs too, and I don't think they generally want to literally murder children. But it's mockery, not really literal, so...okay?
posted by Drinky Die at 11:20 PM on June 24, 2015


Critos' cheque bounced so I can't help there.

[+]

posted by clavdivs at 11:48 PM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


" It's a confusing subject for me because sacred and political is often intertwined."

Ah, well I have a analogy. When Helena and Macarius (one can view his skull at St. Anthony's in Pittsburgh) basically planned out the Church of the Holy Sepulture, it was guesstimating. But today it is a venerated and ancient site.
But still things go wrong with the status quo.
I mean, come folks, you can't fistfight in the tomb of Jesus.
posted by clavdivs at 12:10 AM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do we mean beliefs or sacred religious beliefs?

We're talking about religious/spiritual beliefs in this conversation (as far as I'm aware). (Again, belief in God or some kind of "something more" doesn't necessarily involve belief in or adherence to organised religion, at least on my part.)

But if you're asking if general beliefs are respected currently on the site, not just "religious" ones, then yes I think they are. On a simplified level it's not going into threads with the equivalent of "your favourite band sucks" and we all know we're not supposed to do that. In a thread about vegetarianism, if people were discussing their reasons (and my own reasons for not eating meat are a blend of ethical and spiritual) then I think both of the mocking examples you gave would be equally likely to draw pushback.

If you go into any thread about a topic that people care about on some level, and say this topic is stupid and you are stupid for thinking it's a good thing, people will complain. So I don't think asking for religious beliefs to be respected in the same way is breaking some kind of new ground or asking for special protection. I mean, if I wandered into a craft beer thread and said "this all tastes gross have a G&T you don't know what you're missing" I'd expect retribution to be swift. I'm only asking if mine and others' deep held, personal, and (as zarq says) long-pondered beliefs can be respected as much as MeFites' choice of beverage. Is that really too much to ask?
posted by billiebee at 2:45 AM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure we are quite on the same page. What is your opinion on the comment I linked in my previous post?
posted by Drinky Die at 3:03 AM on June 25, 2015


Drinky Die, this entire thread has been about religious belief.

And as a matter of distinction, I'm getting a little tired of the stealth conflations between ideologies, Republican or otherwise, that oppress women and minorities and all religions everywhere. This isn't brain surgery.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:11 AM on June 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure if that comment is the best example, in that it's saying both parties in the US are child-murderers with different modus operandi. I could see both Christian Republicans and Christian Democrats being offended by it. And yes, if that was deleted I wouldn't be shedding any tears. But it's not really saying "if you believe in politics you are silly". Where I'm from terrible things have been done in the name of religion, and religion and politics are fiercely entertwined so maybe I have a different view than others here. But I have no problem with "here are things done in the name of X religion which are bad and wrong" rather than "religion/beliefs themselves are bad and/or wrong".
posted by billiebee at 3:14 AM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if that comment is the best example, in that it's saying both parties in the US are child-murderers with different modus operandi.

So what? Is it better to insult religion if you target two of them?

But it's not really saying "if you believe in politics you are silly".

No, it's saying if you are a member of either party that controls nearly 100% of all political power in the US you are a member of a party that that is either a brutal child murdering Nazi party or just a child murderer party. And...like it's sitting there undeleted collecting favorites while we debate how awful it is that people think God is kinda silly. It's 10000 times more offensive than anything I saw in the Wicca thread unless religious beliefs are being granted extra protection over secular belief.

I'm not against protecting religious beliefs. I have my own and I get sick of Catholic mockery or accusations that all pro-life Catholics hate women. I'm not sure I'm for especially privileging religious beliefs over other varieties of belief though. Beliefs are beliefs and deserve equal treatment.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:23 AM on June 25, 2015


Well it has 7 favourites so it's not like the whole userbase is rushing to endorse it. And maybe you missed the part where I said I could see how both Republicans and Democrats would be offended by it and I'd be ok with it being deleted? When I said it was calling both sides child-murderers I thought it would be obvious that I was saying that was a bad thing. It's not ok to say we'll insult both religions (in this analogy), I'd rather neither were. And if atheism is considered one belief system and religion the other, then we don't generally insult atheism on the site, we only insult the other side. Atheism is respected as a belief system (I'm not sure if that's the right terminology, sorry) - as it should be - but that respect doesn't go always go both ways and that's the part I'd like to see change.
posted by billiebee at 3:41 AM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


As long as we are on the same page with that comment being an example of disrespect to a belief system, we aren't in disagreement as far as I can tell. Thanks for taking the time to explain your view to me.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:43 AM on June 25, 2015


Beliefs are beliefs and deserve equal treatment.

I will always harp on how "religion" doesn't reduce to "belief," but I realize it's hard for some people to get that - the rhetorical habit is very ingrained. But let's try a different formulation, something like this: people are people, and deserve equal fair treatment.

If you find yourself saying to someone "your ideas are stupid and ridiculous, and you are stupid and ridiculous for feeling they have value and I am going to laugh at you now," with whatever specifics you want to plug in, there's the problem - rudeness and narrow-mindedness, not metaphysics. That's just basically never a cool way to behave. I don't have a hugely difficult time making this distinction, and am puzzled why others do. First of all, religion is about a lot more than holding a set of beliefs, and second, no matter what, a religious person is a person who has reasons for living and thinking as they do, and has not invited your judgment on their life choices simply by expressing them. As I said above, there is plenty to argue about - and yes, the moral consequences of beliefs you might find repugnant remain fair game - without taking a mocking stance toward an earnest person who is just trying to live their life and is in no way directly harming you.

This whole leap to "but does this mean we can NEVER criticize religion" reminds me of nothing so much as 90s pearl-clutching over "political correctness" - "Does this mean I can't say anything to anybody any more?! I'm going to be crucified for holding open the door for a lady at the grocery store! It's the end of free expression as we know it?!" No, it doesn't mean that. Calm down. There are still abundant ways to critique religion in general (though that tends to be so vague and sweeping as to lack much meaning) and to critique specific beliefs when you have something specific to discuss from a link, or if you have any reason to suspect that your interlocutor(a) even holds that belief and (b) is advancing that belief in a discussion. Zarq has pointed out that sometimes we don't even get to (a) because people are so eager to leap on what they think is the important issue to discuss about religion. One thing I hate a lot is when I say something about being part of religious group and people immediately come back with "How can you believe XYZ?!" when we haven't spent even two seconds talking about anything I might or might not believe. They're just reacting to the cartoon 'religious person' in their head, which has jack-all to do with me and everything to do with them. So many assumptions, unfounded.

All that's being asked is that people don't treat simple, straightforward expressions of religiosity here as an opportunity for mockery and drive-by snark - or worse, an opportunity to prance around a self-determined sense of superior intellect and worldly-wisdom. What people are saying here is not that expressions of religiosity belong in a separate category of discourse, aloof and inviolable. In fact, what I'm saying, and what I think others may be saying, is that they're not in a separate category - they're in the same category as other personal value that we have usually enough general mutual respect for one another not to point and laugh about. This isn't a political stance, it's not a metaphysical argument. It's basically about manners. It's weird to me that someone can come to this site and talk about stuff like coprophilia and get treated with nothing but respect, but if someone dares say they identify as religious, it's lulz time. Just seems inconsistent, and one of the few places where we allow a degree of shallow rudeness that we wouldn't tolerate with other identity issues.
posted by Miko at 2:19 PM on June 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


What people are saying here is not that expressions of religiosity belong in a separate category of discourse, aloof and inviolable. In fact, what I'm saying, and what I think others may be saying, is that they're not in a separate category

What I am trying to communicate is that in practice that may be more rhetoric than action. That is why I was citing a rude and disrespectful comment about secular political beliefs. If we all agree religious beliefs don't have special protection, it's just about manners, why do we see comments like the one I pointed out pass by without much note? It is perfectly possible to communicate distaste for Republican and Democratic political beliefs without that style of comment.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:36 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't accept the premise that political opinions belong in the set. We have a long tradition that opinions in the civic sphere are contestable and debatable, and I don't agree that party or other political positions belong to the set of closely held personal values that comprise identity, the values which we in society have generally made a special effort to respect. That doesn't mean pissy political commentary isn't shitty, but since something that is civic and shared is at stake in politics, in a very concrete and immediate way, generally there is a higher tolerance for attack and riposte when talking about political positions. That's why there's still plenty of room for talking about the moral consequences of belief - the opinions that enter politics and have repercussions.
posted by Miko at 3:12 PM on June 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


....Miko, I'm kind of with Drinky Die now; what about the comment that Drinky Die linked is making it NOT be the kind of "pissy political commentary" you're talking about?

DD - to answer your question, it may simply be that some of the shittier slags on politics go unremarked because there simply aren't as many conservative posters to remark upon them. I can promise you, though, that I do actually agree with you when it comes to how political opinion should be on par with religious opinion when it comes to respecting the opinion-holder, and I do try to adhere to that; and so do many others. But I think there simply aren't as many people to notice those comments, and the mods are probably off dealing with something else; flagging a comment will at least get a mod to take a look, though, as with anything else.

Although, I do have to say that a couple of times I've seen someone complain that a given comment was "offensive" to conservatives, but then I've gone and read it and it was attacking the opinion itself and not the person. And that has always been fair game; it's one thing to say "Reagan's policies were pretty much chocolate-dipped evil", but it's another to say "Anyone who bought Reagan's policies were pretty much chocolate-dipped evil".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:21 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


It IS pissy political commentary. I'm not saying it's not. What I'm saying is that in the civic, secular sphere (at least as idealized in US democratic rhetoric) we understand that political opinions are to be debated and discussed because we have to share a polity and everyone can express their opinions in it. We also have a long tradition of honoring (at least as an ideal) the notion that everyone can worship, or not, in his or her own way. The personal dimensions of religion - those that aren't political - do have a history of being regarded differently than political opinions. So I don't think attacks on political views are at all outside the bounds of civil discussion; we have an underlying premise that we argue about politics in order to resolve something, which is how we will live together as members of a state. There is no such thing at stake when it comes to personal religious practices, and that means I see a lot less merit to attacking them on principle. Attack them when/if they become political moves, sure. But that wasn't happening here. Comparisons are odious, in both directions, but religious thoughts and political views don't have exactly the same relationship to identity and don't function the same way in society. Religion often is, and stays, part of private life.

I also wouldn't call someone wrong to flag that shitty political statement, or ask to discuss it. I think that would be reasonable and we certainly have seen like statements raised in the not-too-distant past, so it's not as though they get special protection, it's that fewer people, possibly, are sensitive to them. It could be that there's a Republican here who doesn't like being called a child murderer. But it's also a hyperbolic comment that is about moral consequences: ending and underfunding poverty relief programs does cause hunger. Something in the polity is at stake there, and it is resolved in part by airing opinions and arguing about it. It's part of public life.
posted by Miko at 4:34 PM on June 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


But it's also a hyperbolic comment that is about moral consequences: ending and underfunding poverty relief programs does cause hunger.

That is a political opinion. Others will argue that poverty programs themselves cause dependence and long term cycles of poverty. I believe they are wrong, but I don't believe it is necessary or appropriate to mock their position by describing it as deliberate Nazi child murder.

One thing I believe is that the Catholic Church has in some ways contributed to an AIDS epidemic in Africa. There are roughly 23.8 million infected persons in all of Africa. The Catholic policy on that is a result of deeply held Catholic spiritual belief about contraception but it still has real world impact on non-believers just like Republican economic policy does. I think we agree we live in the world where much of that institutional and personal belief system must be challenged and changed. It's already happened for a lot of Catholics.

So our conclusion we have reached from this thread is that when we approach our efforts to do that (when we are doing it in appropriate discussions for it, not when it's off topic random challenging) we should do it in a way that is respectful of those personal beliefs. That is kind of difficult because you have to tell someone that deeply held sacred belief they believe came from God is straight up wrong, at least in some circumstances, but it can be done. I think if we can do that respectfully when it comes to areas where religion is wrong, we can do it when it comes to the beliefs that may not come from God but that are just as personally important. For me, one of those beliefs is that the Church is wrong on contraception, women as Priests, and for a whole heap of issues regarding LGBT people. I also believe that you shouldn't eat animals. Insult or mock vegetarianism and I'll feel more disrespected than I would if you took the Lord's name in vain or called him a sky wizard.

Those things are more a part of my identity than the Church is. I have other political beliefs I feel the same way about. I think those sorts of beliefs deserve the same respect, and that in this little corner of the Internet it would be good if we started to try a little harder to go in that direction.

I think that's about as persuasive as I can be on that topic so I'll go ahead and shut up now. Agree to disagree if we still don't see eye to eye. Time's yours.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:37 PM on June 25, 2015


That is kind of difficult because you have to tell someone that deeply held sacred belief they believe came from God is straight up wrong, at least in some circumstances,

I don't agree with this. You don't have to tell someone anything at all, but if you choose to engage, what you can tell them is "I see that XYZ political position, for you, is a result of XYZ religious thought process [again, be wary of this word 'belief' because we really don't all agree on what it even means], but I am going to ask you to deal with the moral and political consequences of XYZ political position." It may be that those consequences square with their religious belief, it may be that they don't and there is a difficult paradox or forced choice you are asking them to face, but you really don't have to get in and muck around with whether you think someone's religious sensibilities are "right" or "wrong" by your lights in order to talk about what is best for the common good. In the civic sphere, we are concerned with conditions created by policies and social structures, not conditions inside people's heads.

I don't think we come down a lot on the side of mocking vegetarians or breast-feeders or polyamorists or most other deeply held moral convictions, either. If your goal is "a little less mocking," I think the point of this thread is that a lot of people are down with that, but for me injunctions against mocking do need to include those against religious participation in and of itself; it's at least as legitimate as other moral positions and identity categories. Sure, we're all a unique conglomeration of moral position, preference, worldview, fact-claim and ineffable inclination and the mix is different with each of us, but - here as in the general polity - we can make a clear distinction between what's in the civil sphere and what's in the private sphere: personal ideations about the nature of the universe and existence and the practices that accompany them. I don't recognize anyone's entitlement to get into the private sphere and dictate how anyone should feel about it, any more than I recognize some bishop's right to tell you you're "wrong" about ordinating women or birth control. The polite and civil thing is to give people the space to hold their views, and when they want to enter a public space to debate the wider merits of how they apply in society as law, custom, or policy, well, then, that becomes a good point to discuss their wider merit. But before that, they're really just nobody's business to "correct."
posted by Miko at 8:21 PM on June 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't think I could possibly agree more strongly with Miko's recent comments. Speaking as a lifelong atheist.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:42 PM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Esp. This line:
"we can make a clear distinction between what's in the civil sphere and what's in the private sphere"

Well said and I will break out the canned Adams.

"The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?"

- John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 20, 1815
posted by clavdivs at 9:04 PM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hrm, well one more comment then I'll go memail if we still want to talk.

I don't agree with this. You don't have to tell someone anything at all

I didn't suggest anybody has to.

"I see that XYZ political position, for you, is a result of XYZ religious thought process [again, be wary of this word 'belief' because we really don't all agree on what it even means], but I am going to ask you to deal with the moral and political consequences of XYZ political position."

The Catholics I know who devoutly believe in the proscription against contraception are generally aware of the moral and political consequences already. It's not all that hidden. That is why I chose that issue. I would always start by avoiding challenging spiritual beliefs behind it, but there are times when the battle has to be won in spiritual terms rather than in secular terms because you are speaking someone who honestly engages in the spiritual beliefs. Religion is sometimes about putting those beliefs first.

If you wanted to persuade a devout Jew to eat pork, not that I can see any reason anybody would want to do that, pointing towards the economic benefits for the pig famers and the scientific evidence that it is clean would probably often fall short. You would have to convince them out of a position they believe to be religiously essential. Those rules are important. You can't always just chuck em' away if they don't seem rational because they are supposed to make sense to a higher power.

The vast majority of times, there is no need to challenge those beliefs. Let people believe, but sometimes beliefs are harmful to others. Even beliefs about some of the most private of private spheres, like in regards to bedroom behavior...

The Catholic attitude on contraception is sacred, some people will have to be engaged on those terms if you feel they need to be persuaded for the good of a wider society that is impacted by their choices.

I don't recognize anyone's entitlement to get into the private sphere and dictate how anyone should feel about it, any more than I recognize some bishop's right to tell you you're "wrong" about ordinating women or birth control.

Can we even have monotheistic religion if at some point some people don't go around suggesting to other people what beliefs are right and what beliefs are wrong? It's hard to get converts if you don't do it at least once to get the ball rolling. :P I recognize the right of the Bishop to tell me my beliefs are wrong, as long as it is done in a respectful way. We are afield from discussing mockery when we discuss that though, I think. We mostly see eye to eye on mockery so this time I mean it on leaving it there.

Interesting conversation though, thanks.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:03 PM on June 25, 2015


"You can't always just chuck em' away if they don't seem rational because they are supposed to make sense to a higher power."

Nonsense.
posted by clavdivs at 11:58 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


You would have to convince them out of a position they believe to be religiously essential.

Sure, in a religious discussion about the moral consequences of belief, you might want to go there, if you even think it is possible to sway someone's strongly held, religiously derived belief (it does happen). But that is very far from what is happening here on MeFi when people take random opportunities to insult believers who are not espousing any opinion at the moment with much direct social consequence at all, and I'm not sure why, in the context of this discussion, it should trouble matters. The attempt you describe is a discussion for co-religionists, not a civic-sphere discussion about public policy or shared social custom.

Can we even have monotheistic religion if at some point some people don't go around suggesting to other people what beliefs are right and what beliefs are wrong?

Of course you can, if you think about religious paths as traditions of inquiry rather than bodies of dogma (I belong to a non-creedal religion, for instance, but even creedal religions can be thought of as a search for right - after all, teachings change - rather than a set of statements about right). I think, as a Catholic, you may be used to a highly dogmatic religious context whose ideas about the clarity of "right" and "wrong" don't apply even across all Christian denominations, but most Catholics in the US are like you; in practice, they follow their own consciences with guidance and perspective from the leaders and maybe prayer, and they choose to let the spiritual-consequence chips fall where they may, understanding they're in non-compliance. Is Catholicism a monotheistic religion? Of course. Are you wrong because a bishop said you are wrong? Well, he's referencing a framework which obviously you do not accept parts of, or you would change your beliefs. You're wrong in his framework, but you probably don't believe you're wrong in the universe. This is my point - you call yourself a Catholic, yet you hold non-Catholic-leadership-endorsed beliefs. So the bishop's framework - the beliefs - are not the same thing as the religion, are they? You would feel you were acting in the wrong if you adopted the Church's stance on contraception because you can't square its moral consequences with other principles. This is an excellent example of a case in which the religion is more to you than a set of beliefs that are judged right or wrong - you can hold yourself separate from the beliefs propounded by church-as-institution and form beliefs driven by individual conscience, influenced, perhaps, by general moral principles, other religious principles, and your understanding of the divine.
posted by Miko at 6:10 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Can we even have monotheistic religion if at some point some people don't go around suggesting to other people what beliefs are right and what beliefs are wrong?

DD, this sentence in your comment jumped out at me, and I know we're traveling a bit far afield, but I'd like to address it. Religion generally spreads through teaching and word-of mouth, yes. However, (and I apologize for sounding like a broken record here, but,) one of the oldest monotheistic religions in the world teaches that its followers are not supposed to proselytize to outsiders. And as an convert to the religion can tell you, rabbis make converting pretty difficult. There's a tradition which says that a rabbi is supposed to turn away anyone three times who says they want to convert to Judaism. If they truly want to become a Jew, they will be persistent.

Depending on the Jewish sect one belongs to, blind worship is also rejected to varying degrees. Followers are supposed to ask questions, learn, be skeptical and improve their understanding. They're supposed to individually figure out what they think is right, draw conclusions and form their own, informed opinions.

In theory, Jews are also not supposed to pressure or shame their fellow Jews, either. There are a number of statements to that effect in the Mishnah. Shaming anyone is actually spoken of as a grave sin, akin to murder in the Talmud. But it happens, either through peer pressure or haranguing -- usually in the deeply Orthodox sects. Also, Jewish mom guilt is a thing. Have you called yours? She was in labor for 96 hours. ;)

All of this contributes to a certain amount of decentralization and autonomy that is a part of Jewish belief. Most of us tend to reject messianic figures (Chabad notwithstanding) because that goes against the grain. Rabbis are considered teachers, advisers and guides, not prophets. And beyond defining monotheism and some core values, everything else is up for interpretation.
posted by zarq at 9:05 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


If you wanted to persuade a devout Jew to eat pork, not that I can see any reason anybody would want to do that

It seems like a huge stretch to go from suggesting that MeFi could do with fewer insulting comments about religious beliefs to discussing trying to persuade a devout Jew to eat pork. They're nowhere near the same thing.
posted by Lexica at 9:44 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's a HUGE difference between telling someone that their religious belief is not only imaginary, valueless and dangerous but also stupid and "absurd," and trying to convince a single person that one belief out of many they presumably hold (which I hasten to emphasize most definitely affects no one else but them) is something they should give up.
posted by zarq at 9:51 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It seems like a huge stretch to go from suggesting that MeFi could do with fewer insulting comments about religious beliefs

Yeah, I know. I think I was pretty clear in my previous comment that I felt the conversation had moved afield from that, which is why I was feeling the pressure to stop posting about it.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:21 AM on June 26, 2015


Yeah, I know. I think I was pretty clear in my previous comment that I felt the conversation had moved afield from that, which is why I was feeling the pressure to stop posting about it.

Thank you for stopping.
posted by zarq at 11:34 AM on June 26, 2015


I flagged a few comments in the gay marriage thread I thought were insensitive to religious views orbiting around the topic. I thought the moderators did a good job handling them. I don't know if that is standard stuff that always would have been handled that way or a particular eye on the issue as a result of this thread, but either way I thought you did a good job moderating that issue on the topic, and keeping the thread humming along well without derail in general. Good job, thanks mods.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:58 AM on June 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


« Older Looking for a comment   |   40 things to do before you're 40 - a follow-up Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments