Jesus, People! February 17, 2011 5:05 PM   Subscribe

Are Jesus People a protected class?

I was reading this really thought-provoking thread and in the midst of an equally thought-provoking derail, came across the phrase "persons of faith," which gave me a mental double-take.

Self-described religious people are in the majority in the U.S., and Christians (AA's model is generically and presumably Christian) aren't suffering from social, economic or political marginalization here. Further, religious faith is expressly the product of choice, not heredity. So, why the oversensitive description "persons of faith," which seems, disingenuously, to be seeking victim status?

And, since AB apologized for his initial harshness, why isn't this a perfectly good-faith (sorry), legitimate and important question to ask the community? Many users here may have either the same issues with faith-based programs, valuable experience with non-faith-based programs, or both?

Apologies up front if I misread something. My reader bias: I live in the rural South and teach in a public school, where (Constitution be damned) every school function is opened with either a prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance (led by administrators), and frequently both. Any time I hear someone ask for less "god shit", I figure that he, like me, is probably up to his eyeballs in it and can't catch enough breath to form nicer sentences.
posted by toodleydoodley to MetaFilter-Related at 5:05 PM (210 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

It was a boorish and ranty derail. Not sure what else is going on here.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:10 PM on February 17, 2011


Yes, jesus people are a protected class now that we have all finally agreed to stop the senseless hunting of them in their natural habitats. Anyway, I've heard they taste really gross and all the people who honestly did like eating them are all dying off from old age or something.
posted by elizardbits at 5:11 PM on February 17, 2011 [26 favorites]


I've had kind of a lousy day and I kind of hoped that there wouldn't be a pointlessly antagonistic MeTa thread that would accomplish nothing except a big long argument.

Silly me.
posted by jonmc at 5:15 PM on February 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


why isn't this a perfectly good-faith (sorry), legitimate and important question to ask the community?

It's fine. But as a question posed to the community in a thread on something else by someone who sort of insulted a bunch of people earlier on, it's going to bug some people.

"persons of faith" is a completely normal and inclusive way to talk about people of varying religious beliefs.

This isn't a "protected class" thing, this is a "don't be a gratuitous asshole" thing. Whether you're being that way because you're objecting to something you or others feel is legitimate doesn't mean you don't still need to be decent, here.

As an aside, I find the idea of objecting to a "protected class" vaguely problematic on its face since it's often used against people who have fought long and hard for basic civil rights types of things. I'm assuming you don't mean to be dredging it up in that way, but I think the term is a sort of loaded one in a lot of ways.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:15 PM on February 17, 2011 [17 favorites]


I'm a person of faith myself though, because I'm Jewish, definitely not a "Jesus Person."

I get that a lot of people have religion shoved down their throat, or did, and don't want any more of that. (My husband, raised in a fundamentalist Xian household, is one of those people.")

But there are a lot of people like me who believe in God. People can do what they want but is it really necessary to make a big point of Not Capitalizing the Word God? And is it necessary to ask for a religion free site by referring to such a place as "god free," a la "caffeine free" or "fat free"? Aggressive atheism can be grating, even it doesn't compare with being assaulted with God and religion references.

I also wonder why you need to talk about believing Christians as "Jesus People?" That makes them sound like zombies or cult members.

I prefer tolerance myself, so I also prefer word choices that don't derogate other people's beliefs or lack thereof. YMMV.
posted by bearwife at 5:15 PM on February 17, 2011 [15 favorites]


Explain to me how you saw this thread going when you were writing the initial post, because I'm not seeing the point.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:16 PM on February 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Hold on there sir. You have been around metafilter for over a year now, you really should know better about how metafilter handles religion. It's not a secret.

I think you're reading a tad too much into what happened in that thread. A derail was posted, it was responded to, and then a non-apology was posted. This is par for the course on metafilter.

Now, if you really want to ask the question about non-religious AA groups, that is what the green is for.
posted by Stynxno at 5:16 PM on February 17, 2011


bearwife: "I also wonder why you need to talk about believing Christians as "Jesus People?" That makes them sound like zombies or cult members. "

Yeah, really! It's not like they dress up in black and tell people what to do!
posted by dunkadunc at 5:17 PM on February 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


As far as I know "persons of faith" is just a catch-all for, uh, persons of faith. I don't think the author of that comment was claiming to be persecuted in any manner. I think he was just being inclusive.

And while I understand that you find religion unnecessary in your life- And that's totally your right and I respect it and I will never preach to you- I think you need to understand the inverse of that. Which is that faith is deeply important to many, many people in a very fundamental way. Asking someone "Are you Christian/Muslim/Jewish?" might be as base as asking someone "Are you a human being?".

I don't mean that to say that we can't have productive, understanding debates on the subject (I'm always open, yo), but I think it's important for "persons of non-faith" to understand just how sincere and complicated faith can be. It's not like talking about a favorite band or something.

Anyway- I think this is a non-issue.
posted by GilloD at 5:18 PM on February 17, 2011


It's not like they dress up in black and tell people what to do!

Come on. Plenty of believing Christians in fact do not dress up in black and tell people what to do. And even those that do dress up in black don't uniformly do it so they can boss others around.

The name calling seems. . . uncalled for.
posted by bearwife at 5:20 PM on February 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


i've lived most of my life in the south and roll my eyes constantly at the evangelicals trying to push their persecution complex. however, persons of faith is just another way to say "religious" without getting into specifics of denomination. i don't see it trying to seek "victim status" and i think it's an incredibly uncharitable read of that comment.

and, apology or not, if someone expresses an idea with harshness, they can hardly be surprised when some people balk at that and don't view any repetitions of the idea in good faith.
posted by nadawi at 5:21 PM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


The majority is always a protected group by default. It's just how the world works.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:23 PM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


also, this thread never goes well.
posted by nadawi at 5:24 PM on February 17, 2011


There were some actual Jesus People. What do you think about the Jesus People?
posted by adipocere at 5:29 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are they a discreet and insular minority? A politically unpopular minority? No. Are all people, irrespective of protected-class status, entitled to not be punchlines on metafilter? Yes. I think it's the last question you should be asking.

I don't think there's anything victim-status seeking about the term "persons of faith." It sounds to me like it's a term that's designed to be more inclusive than just "Christian," and that it encompasses all the God people or something.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:31 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've had kind of a lousy day and I kind of hoped that there wouldn't be a pointlessly antagonistic MeTa thread that would accomplish nothing except a big long argument.

Silly me.
posted by jonmc at 5:15 PM on February 17 [+] [!]


And yet, here you are with the third comment!
posted by proj at 5:31 PM on February 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


Asking someone "Are you Christian/Muslim/Jewish?" might be as base as asking someone "Are you a human being?".

My problem comes when, once they find out you aren't one of the above, they start treating you as something less.
posted by pjern at 5:32 PM on February 17, 2011 [14 favorites]


Figured I'd make an attempt to nip it in the bud. I (seriously) should know better. I'll go tag my mp3s or something.
posted by jonmc at 5:32 PM on February 17, 2011




Chicago has Jesus People
posted by timsteil at 5:39 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


In response to the post at the top of the page:

1) "Persons of faith" is just a catch-all term, not a proclamation of protected or minority status. Religious people really do like to act persecuted a lot, it's true. But the term "persons of faith" is not an example of it.

2) Be careful with the terminology "protected class," since religious belief is, in fact, a legally protected class under a number of U.S. federal and state statutes. I know that's not what you meant - and that's why I think you might want to pick a different term.

3) Really, I think maybe you need to step back and think about whether or not your visceral reaction to the term "persons of faith" is the result of your own exasperation with the ongoing actions of a specific religious community in your life more than anything else. MetaFilter is generally a very tolerant community. However, with respect to religion, it is, if anything, a little on the antagonistic side (to put it lightly).

One more thing: Can we at least agree that the song Jesus Children of America is really awesome?
posted by The World Famous at 5:46 PM on February 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


After all the shit I've pulled all these years, this is what I get called out on.... LOL.

Yeah, I could have phrased my thoughts better. Sometimes it's hard to know what will set people off around here.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:55 PM on February 17, 2011


AA's model is generically and presumably Christian

I know very little about AA but I can say from people I know this is not necessarily the case; my step-cousin (who I really like; I got super-lucky in the step-relative category) considers her deceased mother to be her higher power. Something I find very moving, as well, is a woman who apparently considered the radiator in the building where she had her AA meetings be her higher power because every time she saw it she knew she was working on being sober. I'm not saying I don't think there are problems with religions or pseudo-religious stuff as an assumed prerequisite to rehabilitation, but I think that there are many ways in which faith can be approached and thus the phrase "persons of faith" seems simultaneously pretty reasonable and very broad to me.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:56 PM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sometimes it's hard to know what will set people off around here.

Dude, pretty much EVERYTHING will piss someone off here. So just say what you really think anyway.
posted by jonmc at 5:59 PM on February 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Asking someone "Are you Christian/Muslim/Jewish?" might be as base as asking someone "Are you a human being?".

You know who else asked people if they were Jewish?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:00 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jesus, people.
posted by box at 6:14 PM on February 17, 2011 [13 favorites]


You know who else asked people if they were Jewish?

So I think one of the other rounds in my The Your Mom Show game show concept would be called "Peak Hitler", and how it would work is you'd have your three contestants or whatever sitting with their hands on their buzzers, and one of the celebrity panel judges would read a like paragraph long selection of text.

And that text would have a variety of conveniently loaded phrases in it, and each contestant had to choose a moment to buzz in where the celebrity had just finished a phrase that they thought was probably the best "you know who else..." fodder likely to appear in the selected passage. And you'd get points for guessing the correct phrase, the most Hitler-riffable bit in the whole thing; and the challenge would be to neither jump the gun by buzzing on a weak early phrase nor to miss the Peak Hitler moment waiting for something better to come along later in the passage.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:14 PM on February 17, 2011 [18 favorites]


Reductio ad Hitlerum!
posted by dunkadunc at 6:15 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I, for one, am so damn sick of Hitler.
Overlords.
3. Prophet!
posted by artof.mulata at 6:20 PM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


oh wait, i forgot...

Metafilter: Jesus, people.
posted by artof.mulata at 6:22 PM on February 17, 2011


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:31 PM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


AA's model is generically and presumably Christian

AA's sole, and explicit, requirement for membership is, "a desire to stop drinking." I am a lifelong atheist. I just marked my third year attending a meeting at least once a week. There are as many individual approaches and practices of AA ideas as there are individuals.

AA is inherently Christian about the same way that the United States is inherently Christian; By volume and default, but not by requirement. Being an atheist in AA has been no harder (nor any easier) than being an atheist anywhere else in America.

In AA, just as in every group of people, there are those with small ideas of what is acceptable, demagogues, and social climbers. I find some things about AA annoying and some things useful. I keep going because what is useful to me is way more important than what is annoying.
posted by Babblesort at 6:34 PM on February 17, 2011 [15 favorites]


Sorry for being all serious and shit. I was working out how to say all that for a long time because it matters to me on a very acute and daily basis. In the meantime the silliness has ensued and I'm all in favor of that continuing...
posted by Babblesort at 6:36 PM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Christ, what an asshole."

That's what sidhe said!
posted by artof.mulata at 6:37 PM on February 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know who else asked people if they were Jewish?

A: Lubavitchers on a Tefillin campaign.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:10 PM on February 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Hey cortex, you know who else designed hypothetical multi-layered metacommentary gameshows, right?
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:23 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK thank you!

whether or not your visceral reaction to the term "persons of faith" is the result of your own exasperation with the ongoing actions of a specific religious community

yep, probably that, although not just in *my* life.

The reason I conflate "persons of faith" with Jesus People (yep I know it's also a real church - I see signs for it everywhere but the signs, at least, make me laugh) is because I have yet to have anyone ask me if I have come to accept Baal or Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or any other deity as my personal savior. Yet in my supposedly secular vocation, pretty much every person I work with wears a crucifix and hangs christian artifacts in their classrooms, classrooms that are paid for with tax dollars. Our teachers and administrators lead students in prayer, use religious texts to teach them moral lessons and judge the quality of their peers' (and students') characters based on whether those peers or students go to the same church they do.

I worry that someone I know might recognize me on metafilter and cause me to lose my job, even though I never (seriously, never) use mefi at school and never use my handle IRL, and even (most of all) though I'm not supposed to have to conform to any religious standards at work. Seeing the phrase "insult persons of faith" sounded so much like the pharisees I meet in my daily life that I just cringed, thinking of the "silent majority."

Hold on there sir. ... I think you're reading a tad too much into what happened in that thread. A derail was posted, it was responded to, and then a non-apology was posted. This is par for the course on metafilter.

It's ma'am. But point taken. And thanks.

I got my back up because it sounded to me like the dominant majority culture was crying persecution, something that really does happen a lot. I know that I didn't express myself all that well or that timely, and responded more to what I thought I heard than to what the person said.

thought I had to say it. said it. done.

I'll take my hug off the air, thanks.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:30 PM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have yet to have anyone ask me if I have come to accept Baal or Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or any other deity as my personal savior.

This is probably more an artifact of where you live right now than attributable to the idea that other religions don't proselytize, because they can and they do.
posted by Miko at 7:39 PM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Miko: "This is probably more an artifact of where you live right now than attributable to the idea that other religions don't proselytize, because they can and they do."

Ugh, seriously. "Free pasta dinner" I thought. "What could go wrong?" I thought. Six hours of open source licensing and cake is a lie jokes.
posted by boo_radley at 7:47 PM on February 17, 2011 [17 favorites]


People can do what they want but is it really necessary to make a big point of Not Capitalizing the Word God?

Well, yes, mainly because to capitalize G in "God" means that that's "the" God - the only one there is. Lower case g "god" implies that many gods, or any god, or no god, could be equally valid, but complying with the semantics of "God" means I agree to and believe in the terms of his existence, and I don't.

Be careful with the terminology "protected class," since religious belief is, in fact, a legally protected class under a number of U.S. federal and state statutes. I know that's not what you meant - and that's why I think you might want to pick a different term.

I see what you mean - but my point was that lack of religious faith is also a legally protected class, but in our de facto christian society, one that receives rather less protection than it merits. maybe I mean to ask if christians or believers are a "more protected class" than undecided people.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:51 PM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Explain to me how you saw this thread going when you were writing the initial post, because I'm not seeing the point.

oh, let's see -- I was expecting sarcasm, namecalling and horseplay, followed by some desultory stabs at the topic, and rounded off by the drunken singing of songs and if I was lucky, some recipes. Does that sound about right to you?
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:00 PM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


maybe I mean to ask if christians or believers are a "more protected class" than undecided people.

On MetaFilter?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:01 PM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


bearwife: "People can do what they want but is it really necessary to make a big point of Not Capitalizing the Word God?"

Because tolerance involves not expecting us to play by silly, arbitrary rules.

Also, re: dressing in black: You need to beef up on your Father Ted! (oh so funny)
posted by dunkadunc at 8:03 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


On MetaFilter?

oh my bad. did I mention I never go on at work? it's the culture shock.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:03 PM on February 17, 2011


*puts Father Ted in Netflix queue, drinks to duncadunc*
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:07 PM on February 17, 2011


AA is inherently Christian about the same way that the United States is inherently Christian; By volume and default, but not by requirement.

I disagree. AA is inherently Christian about the same way Narconon is inherently Scientologist: because it was explicitly designed around Christianity, and still operates according to a distinctively Christian set of ethics. You are not required to be Christian to attend, but that doesn't mean the 12 Steps aren't Christian -- they are very clearly meant to be so, and no amount of replacing "God" with "a Higher Power" changes that.
posted by vorfeed at 8:10 PM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am not a person of faith.

That said, I will never understand the antagonistic stance so many people seem to feel that it's appropriate to take against those who are. Of course, I feel the same about people with faith who take an antagonistic stance against those without---however;

I tend to believe that those people who would inherently flag themselves as atheists or specifically anti-religious tend to view themselves as more "enlightened" and "Worldly" than those people to whom faith is important, in which case their oppositionally defiant stance is nothing more than puerile bullying.

Ergo, I don't see why you think it's OK to take offense to someone asking someone else to play nicely with someone's faith, while you take potshots at the concept of civil rights (it's the work I do, I mean, it's important to ME) and anyone else's right to not be treated like garbage, while you persist in calling them names that you absolutely know they will be offended by.

I believe there's a word for that, and that word is: Troll.

I don't think that's you, really, I just think you haven't thought this through very well.
posted by TomMelee at 8:14 PM on February 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


and no amount of replacing "God" with "a Higher Power" changes that.

well, except for the atheist who has found sobriety and help through AA. it obviously works for him and for a bunch of other people.
posted by nadawi at 8:18 PM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


As I understand it, "persons of faith" is deliberately designed as a phrase to prevent being Christian-normative when describing religious people. While the definition of religion is one of the most debated words in whatever, in general, the only thing that really binds all "religious" people is that they have faith in a person, thing or idea. "Religious people" is one of those phrases whose intent varies a lot based on intonation, and starts derail style debates (is Buddhism a religion? If it is, would a Buddhist consider herself a "religious person"?)
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:20 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Self-described religious people are in the majority in the U.S., and Christians (AA's model is generically and presumably Christian) aren't suffering from social, economic or political marginalization here. ... So, why the oversensitive description "persons of faith," which seems, disingenuously, to be seeking victim status?

If only persons of colour weren't itself an oversensitive description inviting shitting on (usually white) people who some people think "aren't suffering from social, economic or political marginalization," this term wouldn't be a problem in the first place.
posted by Dasein at 8:31 PM on February 17, 2011


well, except for the atheist who has found sobriety and help through AA. it obviously works for him and for a bunch of other people.

The question of whether AA works (for atheists or not) is entirely separate from the question of whether it is Christian.

For example, I've known more than one atheist who was quite fond of the Serenity Prayer. The Serenity Prayer is still Christian.
posted by vorfeed at 8:38 PM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


to prevent being Christian-normative when describing religious people

To prevent being Christian-normative, but, I think, also to prevent being practice-normative. I consider myself a "person of faith," but I don't consider myself "religious" because I don't regularly attend worship services, perform rituals, or adhere to a particular set of rules. The same is true of many of my friends and family across a broad swath of belief systems: they self-identify as believing, but not as practicing.
posted by weebil at 8:39 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


People can do what they want but is it really necessary to make a big point of Not Capitalizing the Word God?

I think I get where you're coming from with this but please consider that people might not mean it in an aggressive way. Sure, some do. But many don't.

I understand that there are a bunch of religious traditions where the name of their god is sacred, and there are various orthographical conventions people use to indicate this sacred-ness, up to not writing the name of god at all because they don't want it to be defaced or erased.

It's not sacred to me, though, because I'm not religious. I capitalize proper names (bell hooks and certain others excepted) so I'll say 'God' when I'm using it as a proper name, just like I'd say 'Thor' or 'Jim'. But when I talk about the gods of Ancient Egypt or the god of the Abrahamic faiths I use lowercase because for me it's just another noun.

This is offensive to some people because it puts the divine on the same level as the secular. But one thing I value is being precise in what I say. Since I don't believe in divinity in the theological sense, I'd be at best inexact and at worst lying if I indicated I did. For me, being dishonest with people in this way is an indication of disrespect. That's another reason I don't do it, even though I know that means I'll offend people sometimes.

Neither the religious person using caps to indicate their beliefs nor the nonreligious person leaving caps off for the same reason is necessarily being aggressive.
posted by amery at 8:46 PM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


After all the shit I've pulled all these years, this is what I get called out on.... LOL.

Think of it as a lifetime achievement award, like the Meffy for Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Are You Really Proud of Having Sown All Those Disagreements for Your Own Amusement?

They might call it something punchier, though.
posted by kittyprecious at 8:46 PM on February 17, 2011


The question of whether AA works (for atheists or not) is entirely separate from the question of whether it is Christian.

yeah, but quoting the guy who has had a lot of success in recovery with it and being all like YOU'RE WRONG seems sort of assholish, no?
posted by nadawi at 8:52 PM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


you take potshots at the concept of civil rights

That's actually the opposite of what I did. What I was doing was objecting to (in my perception) the dominant culture co-opting the nomenclature of the oppressed. It appears I was mistaken in this instance, but I don't think I'm mistaken in general. And I'm definitely not a troll. I should be more careful in how I read and write, and so should you.

thank you l33tpolicywonk for your description of christian normative. I didn't think of that as a distinction, since I see so little evidence of other (or no) faiths here (here where I live, not here on mefi).

finally, vorfeed and others who have described adaptations of the interpretation of Higher Power to fit with nonbelieving cosmologies - these are nice workarounds, but they're still workarounds. They're things you do when the system you live in doesn't acknowledge you, but a more workable system isn't permitted or else isn't readily available.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:54 PM on February 17, 2011


You are not required to be Christian to attend, but that doesn't mean the 12 Steps aren't Christian -- they are very clearly meant to be so, and no amount of replacing "God" with "a Higher Power" changes that.

There's some truth to that. But the same truth crops up in many facets of modern life.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...
Those words, too, are explicitly placed on a Judeo-Christian foundation yet they are relevant and important to me today in spite of the fact that they mention a creator in which I have no belief.

I'm not upset by anyone rejecting AA. I reject some AA concepts that many would consider canon and yet I still find it useful in the aggregate. I don't have any desire to push people toward AA. I only commented to point out that there is no AA central command that enforces a required set of beliefs. There are no AA bylaws.
posted by Babblesort at 8:57 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I am not a person of faith. That said, I will never understand the antagonistic stance so many people seem to feel that it's appropriate to take against those who are."

A lot of the antagonism from freethinkers towards "persons of faith" is that faith means belief in non-testable hypotheses, a refusal to accept any evidence that could disprove your beliefs. Pretty much the exact opposite of the scientific method.

We're horrified that so much of the world is being run by people who at their very core have rejected using science and reason to understand the world and inform their decisions -- decisions which have a huge impact on the rest of us -- and we're horrified that so many parents are brainwashing their children to be anti-science as well.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:11 PM on February 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


So, why the oversensitive description "persons of faith," which seems, disingenuously, to be seeking victim status?

I would disagree that People-first language is about conferring victim status to anyone.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:16 PM on February 17, 2011


Heyheyhey, watch it with the 'We's, if you please.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:18 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


@Alvy: The "we" in my comment refers specifically to freethinkers who are antagonistic towards "people of faith." Are you antagonistic towards them? If not, you're not included in the "we" to which I refer.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:19 PM on February 17, 2011


Brights?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:23 PM on February 17, 2011


The Internet is an amazing thing. With all the tools to self-educate at our collective disposal, we are able to develop and solidify our convictions and philosophies. Conveniently, we can do this often in a self-selected vacuum, which gives us those yummy little acorn brain-tickles of "man look how fucking right I am about this," and that feeling feeds itself until finally you come to believe you know everything the most about whatever it is you are feeling. Then you come to some place on the Internet, get mad about this thing that you are Clearly The New Big Expert On, and don't realize until much later that most people already know what you know and it turns out, it's not that big of a deal.

I think I must have personally gone through this at least 8 times in the last ten years. Maybe one day, I will be wiser, and not dig holes to build hills to die on.
posted by mckenney at 9:23 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "we" in my comment refers specifically to freethinkers who are antagonistic towards "people of faith." Are you antagonistic towards them? If not, you're not included in the "we" to which I refer.

Well thank fucking nothing in particular for that.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:29 PM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I thought that you're supposed to persecute them, and that they're supposed to just endure it, even if it kills them, because that's how they get to heaven.
posted by hermitosis at 9:40 PM on February 17, 2011


I would disagree that People-first language is about conferring victim status to anyone.

I will continue to object to the use of People-first language. It is most often used to "other" people. Adjectives-first is always used for positives and neutrals ("short people," "Asian people"), and departing from this pattern identifies a characteristic as negative.

This is not a strict rule, and "people of faith" is used more often than "faithful people" or "religious people," but it's possibly the exception that proves the rule.
posted by explosion at 9:49 PM on February 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


no, the new policy, smote the fuck out of them. as the only fictional deity on duty, please be calm and love one another because metafilter cannot refund your misery, only give you a choice to display it.
Keep coming back. It works if you work it.
posted by clavdivs at 9:49 PM on February 17, 2011


because it was explicitly designed around Christianity

Which is ironic, considering that Bill W. came up with the idea while tripping his balls off on belladonna.

"My name is Bill ['Hi, Bill!'] and my higher power is scopolamine."
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:51 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


People can do what they want but is it really necessary to make a big point of Not Capitalizing the Word God?

People can do what they want but is it really necessary to make a big point of Not Obfuscating the Word G-d?

...and eschewing commas entirely?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:59 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I prefer to use the 4chan term "christfags", myself.
posted by tehloki at 10:01 PM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


toodleydoodley: "... AA's model is generically and presumably Christian ...."

No, it isn't. In the US, and other predominantly Christian countries, yeah, it's true, there is a lot of bleed into the meetings from the culture of those who attend the meeting. But my understanding is that you can sit around a table with atheist, agnostics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, nudists, anyone you can find with any cultural background that there can be, and at that table you will perhaps find help for your drinking problem.

vorfeed: "AA is inherently Christian about the same way Narconon is inherently Scientologist: because it was explicitly designed around Christianity, and still operates according to a distinctively Christian set of ethics. You are not required to be Christian to attend, but that doesn't mean the 12 Steps aren't Christian -- they are very clearly meant to be so, and no amount of replacing "God" with "a Higher Power" changes that."

Incorrect. The one part of a sentence that you've gotten right is "You are not required to be Christian to attend..." AA wasn't "explicitly designed around Christianity"; it was cobbled together utilizing many principles found in Christianity, and many found elsewhere -- if it helped people stay sober, hey, they wanted it. The principles that underlie the steps used in those recovery programs could/can be found scattered 'round in most any religion; I've heard the steps referred to as a Mechanics Illustrated approach to spirituality and I think that says a lot; pretty much any mope with one of those text books you linked to can do this deal.

More to the point of any of this is the fact -- yep, the fact -- that AA/12 step/et all have done so much to become inclusive over the years, doing all it can to allow anyone to fit, to open the door wide for all who stumble through it. There are problems, of course -- alcoholics are pretty erratic, and sometimes still a bit soggy around the edges, if you've met boat-loads of conversion-crazed Jesus-jumpers in recovery then you might have encountered people in AA who are not living the traditions, either in their personal life or in their group dynamic, but regardless all that, the traditions *are* there, and suggested; it just means that there is operator error. I mean, WTF, it's free, there's no oversight committee or anything else

I've known many in this recovery thing, it's benefited some of them, I call it good. Seems to me that AA/12 Step/etc is a uniquely American contribution to spirituality; it's an assembly-line sort of thing, a systems approach of sorts, in that it can be replicated easily anywhere it's needed/wanted, it can transcend any culture, be adapted to any culture, using their local reference points ie US meetings may have an underlying Jesus thing to them and Russian just sticking totally to the generic principles with no Jesus bleed-through. Of course the coffee pots and rickety folding chairs and tables will be of local origin, and from what I've been led to understand, the coffee will taste just as horrible no matter where the meeting is -- super-strong, black, bitter, oily gunk. AA holy water.

I started writing this comment earlier, then headed out into the night, meet a buddy, hang for a while -- fun. Came back and found vorfeed's comments and also Babblesort's comments and now I'm trying somehow to put together the blather I've written along with new comments, not sure how it's turned out, maybe I won't even hit "Post" but I probably will; if you're reading these words, I hit "Post".

(inserted below the entire comment by Babblesort, as it's really concise and 100 percent correct, written way better than I'm able to write it.)

Babblesort: "AA's sole, and explicit, requirement for membership is, "a desire to stop drinking." I am a lifelong atheist. I just marked my third year attending a meeting at least once a week. There are as many individual approaches and practices of AA ideas as there are individuals.

AA is inherently Christian about the same way that the United States is inherently Christian; By volume and default, but not by requirement. Being an atheist in AA has been no harder (nor any easier) than being an atheist anywhere else in America.

In AA, just as in every group of people, there are those with small ideas of what is acceptable, demagogues, and social climbers. I find some things about AA annoying and some things useful. I keep going because what is useful to me is way more important than what is annoying.
"
posted by dancestoblue at 10:36 PM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


"I know very little about AA but I can say from people I know this is not necessarily the case; my step-cousin (who I really like; I got super-lucky in the step-relative category) considers her deceased mother to be her higher power."

My former roommate who used to work at a drug/alcohol rehab always said, "The community is the higher power."
posted by klangklangston at 11:08 PM on February 17, 2011


Seems to me that AA/12 Step/etc is a uniquely American contribution to spirituality; it's an assembly-line sort of thing, a systems approach of sorts, in that it can be replicated easily anywhere it's needed/wanted, it can transcend any culture, be adapted to any culture, using their local reference points

AA is certainly "uniquely American" in that it is very American to believe that a distinctly Christian take on things like surrender, guilt, humility, and personal revelation "could/can be found scattered 'round in most any religion" and "can transcend any culture", but these beliefs are not actually universal. Not even within America.

You'd think this would be clear, since all this was started by someone who explicitly rejected 12-step morality (and it's not like they're the first), but I guess not.
posted by vorfeed at 12:43 AM on February 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Our teachers and administrators lead students in prayer, use religious texts to teach them moral lessons and judge the quality of their peers' (and students') characters based on whether those peers or students go to the same church they do.

So fight that where it is appropriate. This place is is a haven from, not a haven for.
posted by vapidave at 4:24 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jacqueline, It's good to know that my religious beliefs make me anti-science. Here I was loving science all this time, not realizing it was the polar opposite of faith.

Luckily, my rejection of the scientific method makes it alot easier for me to buy pants and decide where to eat. I feel sorry for anyone who has to come up with a hypothesis and rigorous experiment in order to make decisions in life.
posted by snapped at 4:56 AM on February 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


People who disparage AA for being Christian always strike me as being in denial about either their own drinking, or the grip of addictions in general. I'm an atheist, and not a member of AA, but I've also worked with well over 100 serious addicts. Each one who did not want to stop using found a good reason why going to meetings was impossible because of some fault of the meeting. Each one who did want to stop using went to meetings and used what was helpful while leaving the rest.

The "new" atheist brigade's derision for 12-steps always reminds me of the Christian "conservative" derision for poor people. They both make me kind of sick, not just because they're abhorrent positions, but because they're so well defended that it's impossible to talk sensibly to the assholes who espouse them.
posted by OmieWise at 5:07 AM on February 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


You'd think this would be clear....

The only thing that's clear is you don't know what you're talking about when it comes to how Alcoholics Anonymous works.
posted by marxchivist at 5:19 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus was a Capricorn
he ate organic food
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:36 AM on February 18, 2011


We're horrified that so much of the world is being run by people who at their very core have rejected using science and reason to understand the world and inform their decisions -- decisions which have a huge impact on the rest of us -- and we're horrified that so many parents are brainwashing their children to be anti-science as well.

Believing in God does not make one anti-science. Liking the color blue without scientific proof that it is superior to other colors also does not make one anti-science. Human brains are marvelously complex. We can have non-scientific convictions while still pursuing scientific answers in other areas.

I, for one, talk to my children about my faith. I also have talked to them about the scientific method. My school-aged kids knew about, and had practiced, testing hypotheses at home before it was taught in school. Their religious "brainwashing" does not in any way, shape, or form include rejection of science.
posted by Dojie at 5:38 AM on February 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


We're horrified that so much of the world is being run by people who at their very core have rejected using science and reason to understand the world and inform their decisions -- decisions which have a huge impact on the rest of us -- and we're horrified that so many parents are brainwashing their children to be anti-science as well

I daresay there are quite a few "People of Faith" like myself that are likewise horrified by that. I know I've spent a lot of time ranting about anti-intellectual and anti-science people of all stripes on the Blue and the Gray.

----

Broad-brush, all-encompassing stereotypes are rarely accurate or constructive. Yet no matter how often folks on *any* side of the debate point that out and present exceptions, the all-or-nothing vilifications persist. Human nature, I suppose. But kind of sad and disappointing as well.

Religious faith, observance and belief or lack thereof is not the same from group to group, and usually not even between individuals within those groups. The problems begin when one side starts demanding that they be allowed to impose themselves on everyone else.
posted by zarq at 5:50 AM on February 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


Broad brushes are most effective for painting walls.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:10 AM on February 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


"I, for one, talk to my children about my faith. I also have talked to them about the scientific method. My school-aged kids knew about, and had practiced, testing hypotheses at home before it was taught in school. Their religious "brainwashing" does not in any way, shape, or form include rejection of science."

Ah, but the important question is: what have you taught them to do if/when they are confronted with evidence that contradicts the religious beliefs you've taught them?

If you categorically deny that there could ever be any evidence that disproves your religious beliefs, that's faith.

If you accept the possibility of evidence that could disprove your beliefs, then you don't have faith, you have a theory. A theory that you may believe to have a very very high probability of being true, but a theory nonethelesss.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:12 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jacqueline, why are you doing this here?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:27 AM on February 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


Beware the Randian.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:33 AM on February 18, 2011


It's news to me that the category "freethinkers" can be construed as exclusive of the category "persons of faith." I consider myself both things and I see I'm not alone.

I'm not sure I accept that "faith," defined as an insistence on the truth of a specific idea without material evidence, is really the defining feature of religion. I think it's possible to be a religious person, to be a "person of faith," by considering oneself to be part of a "faith" where "faith" is a collective noun meaning 'community of practice convening around a set of beliefs. There are faiths which value, encourage and promote seeking, questioning and doubt. I don't find my use of science and my interest in questions of religious history, belief, ethics, and inner life to be in contradiction. I accept the scientific method as our most useful tool for understanding the physical universe and also decry those who reject the evidence provided by the processes of science as a way of managing the world's serious issues.

It's important to recognize that the set of people who might accept the term "people of faith" as an inclusive term which includes themselves is not exclusive of the set of people who support, understand, practice, and believe in science.
posted by Miko at 6:39 AM on February 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


Ah, but the important question is: what have you taught them to do if/when they are confronted with evidence that contradicts the religious beliefs you've taught them?

No, I think the important question is "Jacqueline, why are you personally requiring all theists to satisfy you with a Statement Of Scientific Support for you to take them seriously?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:46 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Jacqueline, why are you doing this here?"

@jessamyn: Because one of the threads running through this conversation has been about antagonism from atheists against people of faith, and how much people's faith should or should not be "fair game" on MetaFilter and/or in general society.

TomMelee said that he didn't understand why we took such an antagonistic stance. As someone who is willing to own up to being one of those antagonistic people (although I generally try to tone it down here as per MetaFilter's social norms), I offered an explanation for why I and others like me feel and act this way. People responded to me, I'm responding to them. That is what one does in a conversation, no?

It seemed on-topic to me.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:54 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I will never understand the antagonistic stance so many people seem to feel that it's appropriate to take against those who are.

As someone who holds religion and educated, adult religious believers in no small measure of contempt, let me try to explain a little. Broadly, it's that we recognise that religious faith is, in essence, the dignifying of profoundly irrational behaviour and feelings, and that we sincerely believe this is inherently dangerous, even - perhaps especially - in its so-called "moderate" form. We also resent the huge influence this particular from of irrationality has on public and private lives throughout the entire world, and the constant demands for "respect" that religious people seem to think is their due with no good justification whatsoever. We see these demands for respect as transparent special pleading, and a weak attempt to avoid the consequences of a behaviour that we suspect many religious people know, deep down, are eminently deserved.

That's the big-brush version. Some more specifics here.
posted by Decani at 7:09 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a difference between talking about what is and is not fair game in a general sense and interrogating individuals about their beliefs (whatever beliefs we're talking about: religion, food preferences, Riker vs Picard) to a level that satisfies you personally. That sort of thing really probably needs to go to email. I'm aware that may not be what you were doing Jacqueline, but it would be nice if this MeTa didn't turn into yet another giant fight between two sets of people hollering past each other "You're like this!"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:10 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


We also resent the huge influence this particular from of irrationality has on public and private lives throughout the entire world, and the constant demands for "respect" that religious people seem to think is their due with no good justification whatsoever.

....the fact that they are human beings with the freedom to decide things for themselves isn't justification enough?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:14 AM on February 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


The constant demands for "respect" that religious people seem to think is their due with no good justification whatsoever

The justification is that of mutual respect for their shared humanity. Nothing more or less.

When some people request specific privilege for their beliefs over other beliefs, I'm with you 100%.
posted by Miko at 7:18 AM on February 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


....the fact that they are human beings with the freedom to decide things for themselves isn't justification enough?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:14 PM on February 18


Not one the things they decide have such a huge impact on wider society and other individual people (including children), no: absolutely not.
posted by Decani at 7:18 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


WHEN. Not "one". Jesus!
posted by Decani at 7:18 AM on February 18, 2011


Not one the things they decide have such a huge impact on wider society and other individual people (including children), no: absolutely not.

Yeah, but that's a completely separate issue which is not about thoughts, but behavior.
posted by Miko at 7:21 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think people here, in this thread, are batting at stereotypes. I doubt an, is against the death penalty because only God can kill and generally relies on faith and religion in a more personal way as opposed to oppressing others.

The anti science types rarely show up on Metafilter and when they do they rarely stay, so I'm not sure why the rest of us have to get all fighty about a type of people that are not even in this community.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:21 AM on February 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


"I think it's possible to be a religious person, to be a "person of faith," by considering oneself to be part of a "faith" where "faith" is a collective noun meaning 'community of practice convening around a set of beliefs."

Yes, there are many definitions of the word faith. That's why when I entered this conversation I was very specific about which definition I was using ("...faith means belief in non-testable hypotheses, a refusal to accept any evidence that could disprove your beliefs.")

Since I took the time to carefully define my terms when stating my position, I'd really appreciate it if people who want to argue with me would please return the courtesy by taking the time to use your reading comprehension skills. (<-- Not intended as snark, but I can't think of a better way to phrase this request. The point is that I'm engaging in this discussion in good faith and I hope y'all are too.)
posted by Jacqueline at 7:21 AM on February 18, 2011


Not when the things they decide have such a huge impact on wider society and other individual people (including children), no: absolutely not.

Here's the thing, though, Sparky:

The people who possess those beliefs and act upon wider society in that fashion is only a fraction of the people you're writing off. The balance of them have those beliefs, but are smart enough to keep them to themselves and let you go your own way believing what you want. Because they respect your freedom to decide things for yourself.

Although, speaking personally, this theist is losing quite a good deal of respect for you right now, for staying so willfully close-minded and insistent that "fundy idiot" is the default mode for all theists.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:22 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I doubt an,= I doubt anyone
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:23 AM on February 18, 2011


faith means belief in non-testable hypotheses, a refusal to accept any evidence that could disprove your beliefs.")

You defined one version of the term, but you were arguing that it applied to all uses of the term. That's not the case. Your definition only applies to certain uses of the term. I showed that there is another use not covered by your definition. The term can still be used accurately as I defined it and yet not described by your statement. That, in fact, is the sense in which the term is most often used.

Not intended as snark,

Oh, please.
posted by Miko at 7:26 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can understand antagonism towards religiosity in general, because of the perceived harm. The problem is that broad-brush antagonism can be specifically hurtful to individual people who have done nothing specific to hurt you whatsoever. That's where we get into trouble being antagonistic towards wide swaths of humanity in general here on Metafilter, and why I'm against it -- not because anti-science religiosity should not be derided, but because you can never tell what specific individuals will be driven away by fostering a generally antagonistic environment.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:28 AM on February 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher's point is excellent - there are almost no anti-science religionists on MeFi in any case. The rest of us shouldn't have to stand in for them; we're not the ones being critiqued in that discussion.
posted by Miko at 7:30 AM on February 18, 2011


"...interrogating individuals about their beliefs..."

@jessamyn: Ah, I see where I went wrong. I was just trying to make a general point about how teaching one's children both faith and science requires that at some point you must choose which one should take priority in a conflict. I phrased my point in the form of a question, but I meant it as a question for Dojie and other parents who claim to be teaching their children both faith and science to ponder for themselves -- I don't actually expect that she or anyone else has to answer to me on this issue.

@Dojie: I apologize if that came across as a too-personal interrogation!
posted by Jacqueline at 7:33 AM on February 18, 2011


The thing about atheists is that they all have unquenchable thirsts for kitten blood, which of course leads them to eat kittens all day. Therefore my hatred of them is justified and I don't have to listen to their kitten-slaughtering tongues wagging.

Don't try and change the subject!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:34 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Heh. The Serenity Prayer kept me out of this thread last night -- I think I'll go repeat it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:34 AM on February 18, 2011


What I don't get is that some atheists here really think it's possible to read MetaFilter without stumbling upon their multi-paragraph manifestos. Or why they think it's necessary to post multi-paragraph manifestos. We're not only not arguing this on a deep, complicated level, but we're having this argument on one of the shallowest levels imaginable.

Angry Atheists: We don't believe in God!

Other atheists and also religious people: That's cool. But hating on religion's not cool.

Angry Atheists: We think it is cool! Religion leads to ignorance and oppression!

Other atheists and also religious people: Yeah, most of us hate that shit too. But that's not all religion is.

And then the Angry Atheists either ignore that point and restate their point, which is a maneuver I call the Decani, or else they make wildly specious claims about how religious people behave and then act as if they're correct which I call the Objectivist. Those are the two arguments we have every. single. time.; we have never had an argument that wasn't one of those two; I am sick of the fact that being an atheist apparently doesn't give you an attention span that lasts longer than a week.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:36 AM on February 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


The rest of us shouldn't have to stand in for them; we're not the ones being critiqued in that discussion.

This was my main point and worth repeating.

When people on Mefi start classifying all religious types as being a certain way, they are actively dismissing and stereotyping fellow Mefites whom they probably know are nothing like the anti-science types.

If you have a problem with the oppressively religious, by all means, say so. But keep in mind that there are plenty of fine religious folks here on Mefi who wouldn't dream of pulling that type of crap and they are horrified and outraged when it happens. It is extremely unfair to lump the open minded religious folk with the dogmatic and oppressive types.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:41 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was just trying to make a general point about how teaching one's children both faith and science requires that at some point you must choose which one should take priority in a conflict. I phrased my point in the form of a question, but I meant it as a question for Dojie and other parents who claim to be teaching their children both faith and science to ponder for themselves -- I don't actually expect that she or anyone else has to answer to me on this issue.

I would posit that the fact that you brought up the question -- rather than assuming that they had thought this up all by themselves already -- means that you perhaps do, in some fashion, still expect them to answer.

Personally, I tend to assume everyone is doing the right thing by me, their families, and society -- and is already addressing these kinds of theological questions -- until I see direct evidence that they've failed to do so. so far as I can tell, vanishingly few people on here have displayed direct evidence that they've NOT taught their children how to balance science and faith in their basic reasoning, so I'm not sure why you'd even raise the issue.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:42 AM on February 18, 2011


"The constant demands for "respect" that religious people seem to think is their due with no good justification whatsoever"

"The justification is that of mutual respect for their shared humanity. Nothing more or less."


Are racists, misogynists, etc. deserving of this respect too? Because many of us see religious faith to be just as abhorrent.

I guess it all depends on what you mean by "respect"?

Personally, I think that it should be just as acceptable to call out religious people on their horrible beliefs and the harm that they and others like them inflict on the world because of those beliefs as it is to call out racists and misogynists for theirs. Which then brings us back to the central question whether "people of faith" should be treated as a protected class, and whether people's religious beliefs should be considered off-limits for attack.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:42 AM on February 18, 2011


I meant it as a question for Dojie and other parents who claim to be teaching their children both faith and science to ponder for themselves

I think it's safe to say that many, perhaps most people, who have taken the trouble to develop such a unique and personal approach to the world of knowledge and human understanding have given this kind of question a great deal of thought themselves already, without needing to be asked by others to introduce it into their thinking.

There is a large segment of society, however, that just doesn't probe either question very deeply. I don't think that's a problem related to science or to religion - it's a reality of a society less inclined to support deep thought and rigorous education. Many people, after growing up in a fairly anti-intellectual milieu, are simply not inclined or equipped to ponder deep questions of epistemology. So they end up relying more on general norms and opinions formed with a shallow degree of thirdhand information (about science and theology both), culture, and tradition - those last two being quite powerful human thought shapers.

It's that lack of curiosity and self-challenge, lack of questioning and critical and reflective thinking, that I view as a serious social issue at the root of the ignorant responses to problems solvable by science - not what the ultimate conclusions they may arrive at will be.
posted by Miko at 7:42 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Are racists, misogynists, etc. deserving of this respect too?

Basic human dignity? Of course.

Their racist or misogynist views? Certainly up for debate.

Because many of us see religious faith to be just as abhorrent.

Religious faith in and of itself? Or some of the negative outcomes of some religious dogmas? Because I think you are conflating the two. Some religious tenets can have very positive social outcomes.

Personally, I think that it should be just as acceptable to call out religious people on their horrible beliefs and the harm that they and others like them inflict on the world

When they in fact are doing so, as individuals, then certainly. The problem is that not all "religious people" are also in the set of people with "horrible beliefs" inflicting harm on the world.

Which then brings us back to the central question whether "people of faith" should be treated as a protected class, and whether people's religious beliefs should be considered off-limits for attack.

We've identified the term 'protected class' as problematic, so I'm going to set that aside. As to whether people's religious beliefs should be considered off-limits for attack - I would say that their beliefs certainly are off limits, yes - these are in the realm of thought and identity and are profoundly personal and idiosyncratic - but their actions, whether those actions may bespecific statements or arguments, legislative actions, oppressions against others, or any other negative outcome you care to identify, are not off limits.

The anti-religionists seem to confuse all arguments with this lack of distinction between thought and action. If your argument against religion is based on the negative outcomes you associate with religion, then comments and critique about religion should focus on outcomes as well, not about religion in and of itself as a human phenomenon. Some religious individuals do not produce or support those negative outcomes, and they are not necessary or endemic to all religious belief and practice.
posted by Miko at 7:49 AM on February 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


Are racists, misogynists, etc. deserving of this respect too? Because many of us see religious faith to be just as abhorrent.

I am agnostic. My wife is firm believer. Is there a particular reason you're assuming my wife is racist or misogynist?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:50 AM on February 18, 2011


"You defined one version of the term, but you were arguing that it applied to all uses of the term."

@Mike: Could you please quote and link where I "argued" that? Because either you misread me or I was not writing precisely enough, and if it is the latter, I'd like to know so that I can learn from the mistake, because I've been sincerely trying to be extra precise in my wording in this thread.

If I really believed that there was only one definition or use for the word "faith" then why would I bother to define my terms? I'd just assume that we were already all talking about the same thing.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:50 AM on February 18, 2011


It's a sad lonely world where you can lump in everyone who doesn't concur with one of your beliefs into one group and think they're all beneath you and "abhorrent."

Nobody has argued that we like drinking someone else's medicine---but what you're not catching onto is that we don't want to drink yours either. If you were as open minded and free minded as you seem to think you are, you honestly wouldn't feel like you had any rights at all to tell someone else what they should think within their own lives.

People are inherently beautiful, I'm not sure why anyone would want to put all the pegs into the same shaped holes.
posted by TomMelee at 8:01 AM on February 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Religious faith in and of itself?"

Yes. I think having religious faith is as bad as having racist beliefs or misogynistic beliefs, and that it is bad to believe such things.

"Some religious tenets can have very positive social outcomes."

Could you please give some examples of positive social outcomes that can only be achieved through religious beliefs and not through a secular worldview?

"I would say that their beliefs certainly are off limits, yes - these are in the realm of thought and identity and are profoundly personal and idiosyncratic"


But why should religious beliefs be off-limits when other personal and idiosyncratic beliefs aren't? For example, one of the main reasons that many people are racist is because a huge party of their identity revolves around being part of a racial or ethnic group that they believe to be superior to all others. So why is it OK to attack racist beliefs but not religious beliefs?

"The anti-religionists seem to confuse all arguments with this lack of distinction between thought and action."

You talk as if beliefs and behaviors can be separate, but the former fundamentally and profoundly influence the latter. Ideology matters.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:05 AM on February 18, 2011


"Is there a particular reason you're assuming my wife is racist or misogynist?"

@Brandon: Could you please quote and link where I indicated that I had made this assumption? Because either you misread what I wrote or I need to learn to write more precisely. Thanks!
posted by Jacqueline at 8:06 AM on February 18, 2011


It's not Mike, it's Miko. Darn that reading comprehension!

Could you please quote and link where I "argued" that?

A lot of the antagonism from freethinkers towards "persons of faith" is that faith means belief in non-testable hypotheses, a refusal to accept any evidence that could disprove your beliefs. Pretty much the exact opposite of the scientific method.

Yes, there are many definitions of the word faith. That's why when I entered this conversation I was very specific about which definition I was using ("...faith means belief in non-testable hypotheses, a refusal to accept any evidence that could disprove your beliefs.")

How does this mean you "argued" that there was only way to interpret the term? You didn't say in your initial comment "I recognize there are many definitions and I'm going to restrict my comments to this one." Until challenged, you did not even note that there might be other definitions besides the one you offered; you actually said "faith means ...." as a statement of fact. You continued to build your further comments on your specific definition of what faith is, ignoring evidence provided that your arguments don't apply when faith is defined more broadly than that.

What you've done there is to commit a logical fallacy of definition, that of defining a term and then attacking only your own definition of the term in your succeeding arguments. No, you didn't explicitly state "I'm going to attack my own definition of faith in the following comments because in my opinion there is only one really meaningful definition of the word," but you did so implicitly by refusing to broaden your own definition and continuing to advance only the one you set forward, you left yourself unable to address the issues the wider definition raises.
posted by Miko at 8:08 AM on February 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


If by "protected class" you mean "someone that should be treated with respect and empathy", yes *all* human beings are in that class.

Don't make up reasons why it's ok for you to be a jerk to people.
posted by philipy at 8:10 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


@Brandon: Could you please quote and link where I indicated that I had made this assumption? Because either you misread what I wrote or I need to learn to write more precisely. Thanks!

Jacqueline, I quoted the bit in the original comment, specifically: "Are racists, misogynists, etc. deserving of this respect too? Because many of us see religious faith to be just as abhorrent."

You've also written "Yes. I think having religious faith is as bad as having racist beliefs or misogynistic beliefs, and that it is bad to believe such things."

Do you seriously not understand that you are talking about specific people, specific Mefites and/or people they care about and not realize how utterly prejudiced, dismissive that comes off? Do you understand how antagonistic that is, the equating of religious belief with racism or misogyny?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:11 AM on February 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wizard People, Dear Reader
posted by yeti at 8:14 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes. I think having religious faith is as bad as having racist beliefs or misogynistic beliefs, and that it is bad to believe such things.

Wow. I think this is the first time I've actually seen the real Thought Police in the wild!

Could you please give some examples of positive social outcomes that can only be achieved through religious beliefs and not through a secular worldview?

I never said they could only be achieved through religious beliefs. I simply noted that some religious beliefs have positive social outcomes, not negative ones. In other words, not all religious beliefs have negative social outcomes.

But why should religious beliefs be off-limits when other personal and idiosyncratic beliefs aren't? For example, one of the main reasons that many people are racist is because a huge party of their identity revolves around being part of a racial or ethnic group that they believe to be superior to all others. So why is it OK to attack racist beliefs but not religious beliefs?

I'm not sure it is OK to "attack" racist beliefs as a general principle, especially unprovoked. I can't see racist beliefs, hear them, touch them or smell them, and they are entirely unable to hurt me, as beliefs. They are intangible and immaterial and cannot be shown as evidence. They can't even be shown to exist. They are only able to hurt me when they create actions - statements, arguments, laws, violence, exclusion, rudeness.

You talk as if beliefs and behaviors can be separate, but the former fundamentally and profoundly influence the latter. Ideology matters.

You talk as if I'm not aware of that. But, as a rationalist materialist, you must certainly agree that I'm unable to do anything about beliefs. I can only witness, record, and contravene actions. I can act in ways that I think might influence another's belief, but there is simply no way I can coerce it or even be sure that I have changed it. Because thoughts are not material, it is impossible to know through science when they have been changed. There is no evidence even that negative beliefs lead to negative actions, because we have no way to measure, record, or illustrate belief. It cannot be seen.
posted by Miko at 8:15 AM on February 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


Because many of us see religious faith to be just as abhorrent.

Many cannot think very well, then.
posted by OmieWise at 8:15 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, I hope I don't have to pull out my "I'm sorry your Mommy didn't let you sleep late on Sunday" snark card, because it makes me feel all oogy when I do.

But I will if I have to.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:17 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Outspoken atheist ruins it for the rest of us once again.
posted by proj at 8:18 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Because either you misread what I wrote or I need to learn to write more precisely.

I think it's the second one. I'm totally not the carefullest reader or writer myself, but if a goodly chunk of one's comments are 'Well, @SuchAndSuch, can you quote and link to where I said that?' one should probably take put more time and thought into the whats and hows of what they are saying.

Also, that @ thing is annoying.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:19 AM on February 18, 2011


> I think having religious faith is as bad as having racist beliefs or misogynistic beliefs, and that it is bad to believe such things.

Bless your heart.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:19 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bleargh. "... take put more time..." See? Totally not carefullest.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:20 AM on February 18, 2011


@Miko: Thank you for taking the time to provide such specific and thorough criticism! I sincerely appreciate it!

"Until challenged, you did not even note that there might be other definitions besides the one you offered..."

You're right, my bad! In the future I will try to remember to preface any defining of terms with an acknowledgment that there are other possible definitions and more explicitly note when I only intend to address one specific definition.

"...you left yourself unable to address the issues the wider definition raises."

Yes, because I'm really only offended by the specific part that I defined. If by "faith" someone means "I like going to church and singing songs with other nice people and then we go out and do good deeds" then that's not the part I object to.

Does anyone know if there a more precise term than "faith" that specifically means a preemptive refusal to acknowledge and/or consider evidence that might disprove one's beliefs? I sure would like to add such a word to my vocabulary.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:20 AM on February 18, 2011


Does anyone know if there a more precise term than "faith" that specifically means a preemptive refusal to acknowledge and/or consider evidence that might disprove one's beliefs?

"Bigotry"? "Prejudice"? "Close-mindedness"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:22 AM on February 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


If by "faith" someone means "I like going to church and singing songs with other nice people and then we go out and do good deeds" then that's not the part I object to.

Jacqueline...you just now said

I think having religious faith is as bad as having racist beliefs or misogynistic beliefs, and that it is bad to believe such things.

It sounds like you object to it.

Does anyone know if there a more precise term than "faith" that specifically means a preemptive refusal to acknowledge and/or consider evidence that might disprove one's beliefs?


Anti-rationalism. An idea which, as this thread demonstrates, is not limited to the religious.
posted by Miko at 8:25 AM on February 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


Jacqueline: Are racists, misogynists, etc. deserving of this respect too? Because many of us see religious faith to be just as abhorrent.

Jacqueline: If I really believed that there was only one definition or use for the word "faith" then why would I bother to define my terms? I'd just assume that we were already all talking about the same thing.

Okay, Jacqueline. Let's talk about my religious faith.

I believe that there's more to mankind's existence than just the flesh and the blood. "Believe" might be the wrong word, actually, since I feel this so strongly that I can't imagine anybody actually thinking otherwise. I believe in magic and wonder and awe.

I'm certain that this is a property of chemistry — when I'm in love, it's some kind of pheromone or whatever; when I see something too beautiful to let me breathe properly, it's probably a defense mechanism or a mating tool or something. I know I'm all chemistry. But I believe that my interpretation of these chemicals matters more than the chemicals themselves. If tomorrow somebody discovered that all science was a lie and my emotions are caused by an anthropomorphic deity breathing the cosmos into my lungs, I wouldn't mind, as long as I still live and feel the same.

I use the word God as a conceit a lot. I say "God" to mean something like, "the potential that we all have to come to terms with ourselves, to accept others, to pursue the things we love, to find happiness." For me, "God" is the same idea as "enlightenment" or "self-actualization". Or sometimes I'll say "God" to mean "reality", because for a year I called myself a pantheist, and I still believe that even if there's no purpose to the universe it's still an incredible thing.

To that extent, I believe in God. I believe that people can find happiness and freedom, and that happiness is not a zero-sum game. When the world becomes a better place, it draws closer to God. Or using my other conceit, I do believe that God is mysterious, and that there's a pattern to all of this that's too complex for us to make out — though I don't think that pattern exists for any particular reason, or else the reason isn't one that we understand or even that particularly concerns us.

So, I'm an atheist. But I can say that I believe in God. And — this is crazy — using my poetic definition of God, I find that I can talk about religion with an astonishing amount of people without my definition tripping me up.

I can talk to my friend, who's a youth minister studying at a Christian college, about Jesus, and I find that his faith in Jesus is about as complex as my faith in God. His handbook, which I just remembered I wanted to borrow from him, surprised me with its intelligence and warmth. It argues, for instance, that if you find your faith in God too easy, then you may be believing in a false God, that your faith must be something which grows you as a person and compels you to explore yourself and question yourself at every point. It also says that if you find your life is too difficult to parse, you abandon your religious goals and pursue your own happiness. It warns us that we can trick ourselves into thinking our suffering holy, but that God is not something that we ought to sacrifice ourselves to.

Isn't this crazy? If you're using my poetic "striving for happiness" conceit of God, then this ministry handbook isn't only valid, but it's wise. Without my believing in a bearded man in the sky, I can read this religious text and it will grow me as a person. Hence why I'm borrowing it to read the entire thing.

I can argue Israel with my Jewish relatives and make a case that Israel is not following God, still using my conceit, and actually have a thought-provoking discussion. I can debate homosexuality on a conservative religious friend's terms and actually make some compelling arguments. God becomes a way for me to come closer to these people I might otherwise reject, and to understand them, and sometimes to help them understand me.

I'm sure that there are religious people who don't believe in this God that I do. In fact, I was sure that I'd stumble into the ignorance and assholery almost immediately. But half a year into this, I still haven't found a religious person who wasn't able to hold rational conversation if we revolved around this (secular, I repeat again, for me) metaphor.

So, I believe in God. But do I believe in religion?

Well, I've been to funerals for two grandmothers. One of them rejected her faith and most of the people she knew, and there were five people at the service, and it was one of the most painful things I've ever seen. The other one had a religious funeral, and I saw her entire community showing genuine sorrow. They knew her. Religion had brought her close to them, for years and years, for longer than I've been alive. Sure, she could have formed the same bonds with another group of people and it would have been just as genuine. But that doesn't make her religious community any less legitimate.

I see my two Jewish grandparents once every few months. Judaism has given my grandfather a barbershop quartet he can sing with. It's given both my grandparents a terrific rabbi who makes great speeches about faith and what faith means. I've never heard him speak, but every time I see them we talk about what he's said, and it's always insightful and cutting.

I've sung prayers with a synagogue full of believers. I've sung small faithful songs in a scared, weak voice, with a friend who was scared and weak and an atheist too. Maybe I don't believe in a literal God, but I believe in music, and a whole lot of it came out of the faithful. And if those faithful attribute their genius to their faith, I'm not going to argue with them.

So I guess you could say I have faith in religion too, no? I don't think it's an unambiguously good thing. I actually think that a vast swath of it is hurtful (though I think that even the parts I find shitty and hurtful might be helping the people within their community, and that's a way trickier situation than the black-and-white one that some people here portray). But I think that it's capable of finding people communities, and inspiration, and happiness, and what I call God.

I am a coldly rational human being. I don't believe my friends' ghost stories involve literal ghosts. I think that all of us are goops of messy, blinky atoms that'll eventually dissolve into something else.

I am a rational, thinking human being. Yet I believe. My beliefs are complex and convoluted and I have about a thousand beliefs for every single thing and shift between them rapidly. Yet I find that these complex beliefs tend to match and correspond to the beliefs of my friends, who when I was younger assumed were deluded simpletons. So now I'm not sure that anybody's religion is really as simple as they sometimes make it seem. I guess that uncertainty is a kind of belief also.

---

Jacqueline, are you still with me?

There's my faith in God. There's my faith in religion.

Explain to me what's abhorrent about that.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:32 AM on February 18, 2011 [23 favorites]


"Jacqueline, I quoted the bit in the original comment, specifically: "Are racists, misogynists, etc. deserving of this respect too? Because many of us see religious faith to be just as abhorrent.""

@Brandon: I believe if you parse the grammar and the mechanics of those sentences correctly it should be clear that I am referring to three different groups and am not claiming that racist = misogynistic = religious.

"Do you seriously not understand that you are talking about specific people, specific Mefites and/or people they care about and not realize how utterly prejudiced, dismissive that comes off? Do you understand how antagonistic that is, the equating of religious belief with racism or misogyny?"

Racists and misogynists don't think there's anything wrong with or hateful about their beliefs either, and there are certainly racists and misogynists who read and comment on MetaFilter (we have a MetaTalk thread calling people out for racism or misogyny at least once a month, don't we?). Why is it OK to attack those hateful beliefs but not hateful religious beliefs?

BTW I'm married to a believer (Christian, specifically) too. So it's not like I shun persons of faith. However, it certainly does upset me that my husband not only believes in but loves and worships a God that he also believes is going to torture me for all eternity after I die. It makes me question whether my husband really loves me if he's chosen to side with a God that he believes would do that to me. How do you and your wife deal with that? (You don't have to answer, I'm just curious because it's an intermittent source of screaming fights in my own marriage.)
posted by Jacqueline at 8:34 AM on February 18, 2011


However, it certainly does upset me that my husband not only believes in but loves and worships a God that he also believes is going to torture me for all eternity after I die. It makes me question whether my husband really loves me if he's chosen to side with a God that he believes would do that to me. How do you and your wife deal with that? (You don't have to answer, I'm just curious because it's an intermittent source of screaming fights in my own marriage.)

Has your husband expressly stated that he believes God will torture you upon your own death? Or are you just assuming that "that's what the Pastor down the street says God thinks, therefore my husband must also believe that"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 AM on February 18, 2011


soon I discovered that this rock thing was true
jerry lee lewis was the devil
jesus was an architect previous to his career as a prophet
all of a sudden, I found myself in love with the world
so there was only one thing that I could do
was ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long
posted by entropicamericana at 8:41 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jesus Tap-Dancing Christ...

I'm the one who made the "persons of faith" comment, and used that phrase solely to be inclusive of all people who subscribe to a particular religion and/or spirituality.

That's it. That's all it was. It was not meant to insinuate or imply that Christians are marginalized, and I object in the strongest possible terms that using the phrase was "oversensitive" and "seeking victim status".


Toodleydoodley: Seeing the phrase "insult persons of faith" sounded so much like the pharisees I meet in my daily life that I just cringed, thinking of the "silent majority...I got my back up because it sounded to me like the dominant majority culture was crying persecution...

Dude. You need to switch to unleaded. I mean, seriously. I'm sorry you live in a section of the country where separation of church and state is so flagrantly ignored, but living there has apparently left you with as overdeveloped a sense of persecution as the evangelicals around you. You might take a moment to remember that the whole country isn't like that, and that someone using the phrase "persons of faith" is probably just trying to include folks, not crying "WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE POOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS?!"

I swear, I'm going to stop commenting in any threads that have anything even remotely to do with religion. The last comment I made involving religion prompted discussion in another Meta Thread (though in fairness, that was more about confusion that anything, and it ended better). I don't seem to be able to make a comment on religion without having to explain myself to someone.



(The point of my post--which was apparently lost on Toodleydoodley--was that in the time it took Afroblanco to type "god shit" he could have Googled and gotten an answer his question. SMART Recovery, Rational Recovery, Secular Organization for Sobriety, Women For Sobriety, even previous AskMe threads all come up. While certainly there's no harm in asking MeFites for secular recommendations, the "god shit" comment was in my opinion both unnecessary and rude. And I disagree that he apologized. "Noted, you're mad at me. Let's move on" isn't an apology.)
posted by magstheaxe at 8:41 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why is it OK to attack those hateful beliefs but not hateful religious beliefs?

Check your language. You aren't talking about beliefs; you're talking about statements. It's OK to attack the statements in an argument, but it's illogical to attack them only on the basis of their rootedness in belief. Because that's not something that provides any evidence for argumentation.

For instance, when we have an argument about misogynism on MeFi, we do a lot of describing why the statements are problematic and what outcomes the statements create in individuals' lives, with the ultimate outcome being that we might decide whether a statement is inappropriate or appropriate here, based on the outcomes.

Some people might walk away from these threads retaining full investment in their misogynist beliefs. That's too bad, if we haven't effected a change in their beliefs - but changing their belief was never something solely within others' power to do, and falls outside the realm of the discussion. The reason we have those discussions is that we want to focus on outcomes - behaviors. Statements. Words. Specific actions on one specific website with specific goals for its community. All things that are real, visible, and tangible (at the electron level, anyway).

So it's OK to attack statements in arguments, sure, if you find them offensive and see that they have negative outcomes. But it's folly to attack beliefs.

And anyway, if you're finding that any statement that begins "I believe...." or references the non-real and non-material is so deeply offensive in its outcomes, you'll be doing a lot of attacking.
posted by Miko at 8:45 AM on February 18, 2011


"Jacqueline...you just now said

"I think having religious faith is as bad as having racist beliefs or misogynistic beliefs, and that it is bad to believe such things.

"It sounds like you object to it."


For future reference to everyone in the thread, the type of "faith" that I am referring and objecting to is the specific definition I gave in my first comment, that is, "belief in non-testable hypotheses, a refusal to accept any evidence that could disprove your beliefs."

Unfortunately, Miko, your suggestion of anti-rationalism as a replacement term doesn't work because the definition you link to for anti-rationalism just links to a redirect to the Wikipedia page on rationalism, and the definition provided for rationalism there appears to exclude the use of inductive reasoning from data and other sensory/physical evidence. I'm definitely not anti-anti-induction or anti-anti-data so that's not what I mean either.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:45 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think Metatalk may be objectively one of the worst places to discuss personal marital issues. This thread was started on a misbegotten notion and now is just writhing around in the weeds of someone's displaced rage. Weird.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:46 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I too find that when I mentally replace [thing I don't like] with [thing I like], it makes talking to people who like [thing I don't like] easier.
posted by Pyry at 8:47 AM on February 18, 2011


However, it certainly does upset me that my husband not only believes in but loves and worships a God that he also believes is going to torture me for all eternity after I die. It makes me question whether my husband really loves me if he's chosen to side with a God that he believes would do that to me.

I'm going to be honest and say that's probably the core of the issue here.

How do you and your wife deal with that? (You don't have to answer, I'm just curious because it's an intermittent source of screaming fights in my own marriage.)

My wife is a Methodist at a cool church. She and that particular church to firmly believe that it's up the individual to determine what they do with their soul. She does not believe that she automatically gets into heaven because she's part of a church. She believes in a life of service to God and his principles and others, so there isn't much emphasis placed on going to church every single Sunday. So she and other members actively work to volunteer and do things in the community that help it (that's where we got certified for CPR and basic first aid, in a class taught there), as opposed to just sitting in a pew.

There's nothing to fight about in terms of religion in our marriage, quite the opposite in fact. It's neat to talk about faith vs non faith and how that permeates society and the individual. She believes in God, it's in her bones, but she also equally believes that going to church doesn't mean you turn off your brain. Quite the opposite in fact.

Religion is a personal matter, why she needs to take of for herself and not force others to follow.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:48 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Christ.

Lay off Jacqueline. She started with a simple and accepted definition of faith. That is the POINT: believing in something that is unprovable.

That said, someone's beliefs or faith just shouldn't be relevant here. Or anywhere else. Words and actions are all that matter. Challenging someone's faith isn't acceptable, nor does it prove anything.

Religious people/beliefs aren't a protected class. They (should) have the same level of respect that we give anyone else.

I think the mistake is that assholes with chips on their shoulders are often tolerated and encouraged here, but sometimes aren't depending on the topic. It isn't that the topic is protected, it's just that the assholes are just less protected on those topics.
posted by gjc at 8:49 AM on February 18, 2011


Crap, I gotta go to work! :(

I'm so sorry to run out in the middle of this conversation, because I really appreciate the very thoughtful responses that so many of you are writing and they deserve my consideration, reflection, and response. I will try to finish everything I gotta do today as quickly as possible and maybe I can make it back here after lunch (~2pm Pacific Time).
posted by Jacqueline at 8:51 AM on February 18, 2011


This has been a bizarre thread to watch.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:55 AM on February 18, 2011


jesus loves you.
posted by clavdivs at 8:56 AM on February 18, 2011


Unfortunately, Miko, your suggestion of anti-rationalism as a replacement term doesn't work because the definition you link to for anti-rationalism just links to a redirect to the Wikipedia page on rationalism, and the definition provided for rationalism there appears to exclude the use of inductive reasoning from data and other sensory/physical evidence. I'm definitely not anti-anti-induction or anti-anti-data so that's not what I mean either.

Anti-empiricism, then, if you want to be sure to include the basis in material evidence. The philosophy underlying scientific practice, though, relies on elements of both these systems of thought, sometimes seen as rivals, but each modified in practice - for instance, logic itself is rationalist. If you agree that people can be convinced of the truth of an idea through reason alone, as you're attempting to do here, then you also hold rationalist beliefs.

But I hesitate to wade into the waters of philosophy. Unless we do agree on terms and have comparable background on them, it's going to get vague and messy and dragged out. I understand your objections to the negative outcomes of religion, but you don't seem to have charge of the philosophical underpinnings to justify a wholesale rejection of all religion based on materialism. A basic course or readings in foundations of philosophy could give you some of those tools; but of course, they're sharp and cut both ways. Trying to use the belief that some beliefs are bad to convince people that beliefs are bad is one example.
posted by Miko at 9:00 AM on February 18, 2011


Why is it OK to attack those hateful beliefs but not hateful religious beliefs?

There's a few different things to look at here:

Alice: "[hateful assertion]"
Bob: "My religious beliefs lead me to believe that [hateful assertion]"
Carol: "I hold religious beliefs x."

Alice and Bob both just actually took reprehensible action in speech. If Alice said something homophobic and Bob said something homophobic, they both did something shitty and the framing of that shitty thing with or without some explanatory context is a secondary issue at best. Shitty actions (in speech or otherwise) are shitty. This is not generally controversial.

But Carol didn't do what Bob did. Mistaking Carol's having religious beliefs for Carol taking hateful actions or making hateful assertions is close-minded irrationality in its own right.

And if Dave shows up and says "I hold religious beliefs x and won't be dissuaded from them", he hasn't said anything hateful either, and it's just as much a mistake to see that as a reason to treat him as if he has. You can disagree with his beliefs and dislike the irrationality of his view of that little bit of life, sure. Openly holding it in contempt puts you in a very different and less defensible position, however.

It's a mistake a lot of people seem to make, and as someone who is as atheist as it gets and has put up with a fair amount of religious nonsense in my own life, I'm constantly annoyed to be stuck standing in the same company with that kind of aggro confused argumentation. Reasonable people can productively discuss systemic issues with specific religious beliefs and phenomena in social and legal contexts without making the mistake of getting a hate-on for large groups of people on the sole basis of disagreement over personal metaphysics.

However, it certainly does upset me that my husband not only believes in but loves and worships a God that he also believes is going to torture me for all eternity after I die.

Which is something specific to your relationship with your husband, and something to work out with him, and not remotely a general picture of every religious person's belief about the afterlife or of every relationship between two people of different religious beliefs. I genuinely feel for you there, it's a tricky thing and would probably be a show-stopper for me in any potential romantic relationship where it was an issue, but it's its own very specific thing and doesn't make Carol or Dave contemptible figures.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:02 AM on February 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


Reasonable people can productively discuss systemic issues with specific religious beliefs and phenomena in social and legal contexts without making the mistake of getting a hate-on for large groups of people on the sole basis of disagreement over personal metaphysics.

Beautifully said - and MetaFilter at its best is exactly that place. That's all I'd hope to see happen here as an outcome of this or any such discussion - improved chances that MetaFilter can be that place every day.

Now, I really have to get some work done, too...
posted by Miko at 9:09 AM on February 18, 2011


Bob & Carol & Dave & Alice?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:10 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Carol and Dave are total dicks. There, I said it.

But Carol didn't do what Bob did. Mistaking Carol's having religious beliefs for Carol taking hateful actions or making hateful assertions is close-minded irrationality in its own right.

And if Dave shows up and says "I hold religious beliefs x and won't be dissuaded from them", he hasn't said anything hateful either, and it's just as much a mistake to see that as a reason to treat him as if he has. You can disagree with his beliefs and dislike the irrationality of his view of that little bit of life, sure. Openly holding it in contempt puts you in a very different and less defensible position, however.


In both cases, the religious aspect is a complete cop-out. If you believe something, religious or not, it's you who's choosing to believe it. If it's hateful, you are hateful. Period.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:14 AM on February 18, 2011


Haven't read all the commentary, but "persons of faith" seems a useful way to say "people who have a religious belief." Faith is not limited to Christians, Jew, Muslims, Hindus, Baha'i, etc. In AmericaLand, where I live, religion is a protected category, and people aren't supposed to be discriminated against because of their beliefs (or lack thereof).
posted by theora55 at 9:15 AM on February 18, 2011


> If it's hateful, you are hateful. Period.

Like calling people total dicks?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:15 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


In both cases, the religious aspect is a complete cop-out. If you believe something, religious or not, it's you who's choosing to believe it. If it's hateful, you are hateful. Period.

If you're wandering around espousing hateful things, you're espousing hateful things. If you're wandering around not doing that, you are not doing that. That's the whole logical lapse here. The mistake is to start from "I don't like action y taken by person A, person A defended their action based in part on statement of religious belief x" and infer "person B, or persons B-Z, may have religious belief x or beliefs similar and ergo deserve contempt for action y regardless of whether they have actually or would ever actually take that action".

Carol and Dave aren't dicks unless they do something dickish. Speech actions can certainly be dickish, but those actions have to actually occur. "I believe in god x" is not a dickish act any more than "I don't believe in god" is, and a whole lot of people of varying belief and non-belief manage to get along famously on a pretty regular basis as a result.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:22 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


In both cases, the religious aspect is a complete cop-out. If you believe something, religious or not, it's you who's choosing to believe it. If it's hateful, you are hateful. Period.

But that wasn't cortex's point. Bob: "My religious beliefs lead me to believe that [hateful assertion]"
Carol: "I hold religious beliefs x."


His point was: Carol and Bob are saying two different things. And just because Carol holds religious belief X, it does not automatically follow that she also believes [hateful assertion] as part of those beliefs. And thus, assuming Carol does believe that is a dick move.

Period.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:23 AM on February 18, 2011


I have spent some time in a twelve-step program, which included reading a lot of the literature and attending a number of AA meetings, even though I'm not an alcoholic (members of sister organizations are encouraged to attend AA meetings as well).

These two things are definitely true: a) you don't need to be Christian to benefit, b) the program's basic philosophy is strongly influenced by Christianity.

For the question of the origins, all you need is a few minutes of research; take a look at the Wikipedia page for starters.

For the question of the philosophy, it's true that there is no official document that calls AA a religious organization. But that doesn't mean that the doctrine isn't Christian; it just means that it isn't elitist.

Nobody in "the program" will tell you that you're going to hell. But they will talk to you ad nauseum about the virtue of self-effacement through the juxtaposition of oneself with a higher power. In other words, you are supposed to let go of your own desire for greatness by reinforcing the idea that there is a spiritual force much greater than you will ever be. It could be argued that this idea isn't necessarily Christian, and that's true. But it resonates a lot more with Christianity than, say, Judaism. You are not likely to find a group of Jews sitting in a circle talking about overcoming their problems by "embracing mediocrity," a mantra that I often heard in "the program."

I also often heard The Lord's Prayer, to be honest.
posted by bingo at 9:23 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like calling people total dicks?

Imaginary ones? Yeah, sorry, but I'm totally okay with that.

cortex, maybe I just misunderstood your examples. It's just that, well, "God hates fags" is a religious belief. And, let me tell you, it ain't God that's doing the hating, and to claim that it is, in my opinion, wore than owning up to one's own prejudices.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:26 AM on February 18, 2011


and to claim that it is, in my opinion, is worse than owning up to one's own prejudices.

Fixed that for me.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:27 AM on February 18, 2011


"Yes. I think having religious faith is as bad as having racist beliefs or misogynistic beliefs, and that it is bad to believe such things."

Sorry, Jaqueline, that's an inane position to hold, and arguing it makes you look foolish.

Without conceding your definitions (which are pretty flawed), nor conceding beliefs as utilitarianly determinative, you're still talking out of your ass here.

1) Misogynistic and racist beliefs can be grouped together based on two factors: That they rely on the inferiority of another group and that they universally cause harm when acted upon.

2) Religious faith, outside of the faith in subjective (ergo non-objective) experience, has little categorical cohesion.

3) Religious faith does not inherently rest on the inferiority of others. It is right and fair to call the Unitarian Universalists "people of faith," and their dogma explicitly rejects the idea of any of humanity being inferior to any other part.

4) Religious faith does not universally cause harm when acted upon — a question you beg several times.

You're also attacking freedom of conscience in a way that has much more potential to be used against atheists than against oppressive religious people.
posted by klangklangston at 9:29 AM on February 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


cortex, maybe I just misunderstood your examples. It's just that, well, "God hates fags" is a religious belief. And, let me tell you, it ain't God that's doing the hating, and to claim that it is, in my opinion, wore than owning up to one's own prejudices.

Here's what Cortext meant. We'll use "God Hates Shrimp" instead.

Bob says "I'm Christian, and my religious beliefs lead me to beleive that God hates Shrimp."
Carol says "I'm Christian" and that's it.

Cortex's point is: unless Carol comes out and says that she AGREES that God hates shrimp, you have no way of knowing whether she really believes that God hates Shrimp. In fact, as it turns out, she doesn't, and thinks that Bob's an idiot.

And so if you assume that Carol thinks that God hates shrimp solely because she said she's Christian, you're jumping to a conclusion about Carol based on incorrect evidence. (And you're also missing out on her shrimp scampi recipe, which is awesome.)

In summation: just because someone says they believe in a given religion in general, they do not believe in all of the specifics that you may have heard other people in that religion proclaim.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:31 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


But that wasn't cortex's point. Bob: "My religious beliefs lead me to believe that [hateful assertion]"
Carol: "I hold religious beliefs x."

His point was: Carol and Bob are saying two different things. And just because Carol holds religious belief X, it does not automatically follow that she also believes [hateful assertion] as part of those beliefs. And thus, assuming Carol does believe that is a dick move.


Ah. I just read the distinction differently.

Bob: I have come to believe [hateful thing] based on religion.
Carol: My religion believes [hateful thing].
posted by Sys Rq at 9:37 AM on February 18, 2011


It's just that, well, "God hates fags" is a religious belief. And, let me tell you, it ain't God that's doing the hating, and to claim that it is, in my opinion, wore than owning up to one's own prejudices.

And if Bob says that, Bob is a hateful dick. But if Carol independently says "I believe in God", that's not remotely the same thing. To conflate the two is to reveal a fundamental lack of objectivity and rationality in your own approach to the situation.

I know for example lots and lots of people who (a) have Christian beliefs and (b) find homophobia in general utterly contemptible. To mistake them for folks who hold homophobic beliefs on the basis of some shared metaphysics is foolish and insulting. It's absolutely not sound reasoning.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:38 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey, look! We've been mutually misunderstood! Whoo-hoo!
posted by Sys Rq at 9:39 AM on February 18, 2011


One more quick response, to this:

"Has your husband expressly stated that he believes God will torture you upon your own death? Or are you just assuming that "that's what the Pastor down the street says God thinks, therefore my husband must also believe that"?"


Discussions about religious faith are something that my husband and I Don't Do Well so we've just stopped talking about it. Before we stopped talking about it he'd clearly reverted to just telling me what he thought I wanted to hear and not what he really believed, so I don't really know what his true beliefs are.

He was raised in a Baptist family/church so a literal hell was definitely part of his indoctrination. During our initial discussions on the topic he seemed to agree with the view that if you didn't accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior that you would go to hell. But then when I pointed out the logical and unfortunate implication that he must also believe that his God is going to send me to hell, he insisted that he doesn't believe that I personally am going to go to hell. But he has never given me a satisfactory explanation for this discrepancy. (Perhaps he thinks that God issues all Christians a guest pass to invite the +1 of their choice?)

I try to convince myself that I shouldn't be too bothered about this because I don't believe in any of it myself and thus his beliefs about God, hell, etc. should be as relevant to our marriage as a belief that Picard was a better captain than Kirk would be.

What really disturbs me the most from all this isn't those beliefs about hell, God, etc,. but what they reveal about his capacity to ignore or tolerate such a massive amount of cognitive dissonance: "Nonbelievers go to hell. My wife is a nonbeliever. My wife is not going to hell."

DOES NOT COMPUTE!

I just don't understand how someone can completely wall off a part of their brain from their critical thinking and reasoning abilities like that. It makes me worry about what else might be wrong with his thought processes.

So, right now we're at an uneasy truce where he religiously (heh) avoids discussing the topic with me at all and I try to see his faith as a form of minor brain damage that hasn't affected any of the really important parts of his brain.

Meanwhile, my own approach to ideology is a) have faith in nothing, b) assume that most of my beliefs and opinions about things are probably wrong, and c) iteratively strive to become progressively "less wrong" as I go through life.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:39 AM on February 18, 2011


Ah. I just read the distinction differently.

Bob: I have come to believe [hateful thing] based on religion.
Carol: My religion believes [hateful thing].


How is "I am [X religion]" in any way equivalent to "my religion beileves [hateful thing]"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:39 AM on February 18, 2011


How is "I am [X religion]" in any way equivalent to "my religion beileves [hateful thing]"?

It was never "I am [X religion]."
posted by Sys Rq at 9:41 AM on February 18, 2011


Jacqueline, I'm sorry that this has become an impasse for you and your husband.

I invite you to consider, though, that many, many Christians disagree with what your husband was taught about hell, and that it is perhaps uncharitable to assume that they all share in lockstep the very same beliefs.

I mean, you don't assume that all men dress to the left or the right just because your husband does, right? This is the same thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:41 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


""belief in non-testable hypotheses, a refusal to accept any evidence that could disprove your beliefs.""

Like inductive reasoning?
posted by klangklangston at 9:41 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was never "I am [X religion]."

Yes it was:

But if Carol independently says "I believe in God", that's not remotely the same thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:43 AM on February 18, 2011


I'm just glad I'm an agnostic. That way I can sit on the sidelines and giggle. Seriously, though, as an agnostic I see that there is mystery in the Universe and that some people choose to call that god. I find that to be short sighted. I think that science will eventually, if we survive as a species, unlock the mysteries that currently muddle our vision. That being said I can't definitively say that there isn't some higher intelligence orchestrating everything. While I find this to be highly unlikely it certainly isn't outside the realm of possibility. I guess that if I was to believe in a religion or spirituality it would have to be panpsychic in character.

For those discussing AA I suggest everyone read Gregory Bateson's paper on the topic - "The Cybernetics of 'Self': A Theory of Alcoholism". Here is a selection relating to the theology of AA. Sorry, I know it's long. I highly suggest you read the whole paper, but this selection speaks to substance of the theology of AA.

Some outstanding points of the theology of AA are:

(1) There is a Power greater than the self. Cybernetics would go somewhat further and recognize that the "self" as ordinarily understood is only a small part of a much larger trial-and-error system which does the thinking, acting, and deciding. This system includes all the informational pathways which are relevant at any given moment to any given decision. The "self" is a false reification of an improperly delimited part of this much larger field of interlocking processes. Cybernetics also recognizes that two or more persons—any group of persons—may together form such a thinking-and-acting system.

(2) This Power is felt to be personal and to be intimately linked with each person. It is "God as you understand him to be." Cybernetically speaking, "my" relation to any larger system around me and including other things and persons will be different from "your" relation to some similar system around you. The relation "part of" must necessarily and logically always be complementary but the meaning of the phrase "part of" will be different for every person. This difference will be especially important in systems containing more than one person. The system or "power" must necessarily appear different from where each person sits. Moreover, it is expectable that such systems, when they encounter each other, will recognize each other as systems in this sense. The "beauty" of the woods through which I walk is my recognition both of the individual trees and of the total ecology of the woods as systems. A similar esthetic recognition is still more striking when I talk with another person.

(3) A favorable relationship with this Power is discovered through "hitting bottom" and "surrender."

(4) By resisting this Power, men and especially alcoholics bring disaster upon themselves. The materialistic philosophy which sees "man" as pitted against his environment is rapidly breaking down as technological man becomes more and more able to oppose the largest systems. Every battle that he wins brings a threat of disaster. The unit of survival—either in ethics or in evolution—is not the organism or the species but the largest system or "power" within which the creature lives. If the creature destroys its environment, it destroys itself.

(5) But—and this is important—the Power does not reward and punish. It does not have "power" in that sense. In the biblical phrase, "All things work together for good to them that love God." And, conversely, to them that do not. The idea of power in the sense of unilateral control is foreign to AA. Their organization is strictly "democratic" (their word), and even their deity is still bound by what we might call a systemic determinism. The same limitation applies both to the relationship between the AA sponsor and the drunk whom he hopes to help and to the relationship between AA central office and every local group.

(6) The first two “steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous taken together identify the addiction as a manifestation of this Power.

(7) The healthy relation between each person and this Power is complementary. It is in precise contrast to the “pride” of the alcoholic, which is predicated upon a symmetrical relationship to an imagined “other.” The schismogenesis is always more powerful than the participants in it.

(8) The quality and content of each person's relation to the Power is indicated or reflected in the social structure of AA. The secular aspect of this system—its governance—is delineated in "Twelve Traditions" which supplement the "Twelve Steps," the latter developing man's relationship to the Power. The two documents overlap in the Twelfth Step, which enjoins aid to other alcoholics as a necessary spiritual exercise without which the member is likely to relapse. The total system is a Durkheimian religion in the sense that the relationship between man and his community parallels the relationship between man and God. "AA is a power greater than any of us." In sum, the relationship of each individual to the "Power" is best defined in the words “is part of."

(9) Anonymity. It must be understood that anonymity means much more in AA thinking and theology than the mere protection of members from exposure and shame. With increasing fame and success of the organization as a whole, it has become a temptation for members to use the fact of their membership as a positive asset in public relations, politics, education, and many other fields. Bill W., the co-founder of the organization, was himself caught by this temptation in early days and has discussed the matter in a published article. He sees first that any grabbing of the spotlight must be a personal and spiritual danger to the member, who cannot afford such self-seeking; and beyond this that it would be fatal for the organization as a whole to become involved in politics, religious controversy, and social reform. He states clearly that the errors of the alcoholic are the same as the "forces which are today ripping the world apart at its seams," but that it is not the business of AA to save the world. Their single purpose is "to carry the AA message to the sick alcoholic who wants it." He concludes that anonymity is "the greatest symbol of self-sacrifice that we know." Elsewhere the twelfth of the "Twelve Traditions" states that "anonymity is the spiritual foundation of our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities." To this we may add that anonymity is also a profound statement of the systemic relation, part-to-whole. Some systems theorists would go even further, because a major temptation for systems theory lies in the reification of theoretical concepts. Anatol Holt says he wants a bumper sticker which would (paradoxically) say, "Stamp out nouns."

(10) Prayer. The AA use of prayer similarly affirms the complementarity of part-whole relationship by the very simple technique of asking for that relationship. They ask for those personal characteristics, such as humility, which are in fact exercised in the very act of prayer. If the act of prayer be sincere (which is not so easy), God cannot but grant the request. And this is peculiarly true of "God, as you understand him." This self-affirming tautology, which contains its own beauty, is precisely the balm required after the anguish of the double binds which went with hitting bottom. Somewhat more complex is the famous "Serenity Prayer": "God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference." If double binds cause anguish and despair and destroy personal epistemological premises at some deep level, then it follows, conversely, that for the healing of these wounds and the growth of a new epistemology, some converse of the double bind will be appropriate. The double bind leads to the conclusion of despair, "There are no alternatives." The Serenity Prayer explicitly frees the worshipper from these maddening bonds. In this connection it is worth mentioning that the great schizophrenic, John Perceval, observed a change in his "voices." In the beginning of his psychosis they bullied him with "contradictory commands" (or as I would say, double binds), but later he began to recover when they offered him choice of clearly defined alternatives.

(11) In one characteristic, AA differs profoundly from such natural mental systems as the family or the redwood forest. It has a single purpose—"to carry the AA message to the sick alcoholic who wants it"—and the organization is dedicated to the maximization of that purpose. In this respect, AA is no more sophisticated than General Motors or an Occidental nation. But biological systems, other than those premised upon Occidental ideas (and especially money), are multipurposed. There is no single variable in the red-wood forest of which we can say that the whole system is oriented to maximizing that variable and all other variables are subsidiary to it; and, indeed, the redwood forest works toward optima, not maxima. Its needs are satiable, and too much of anything is toxic.

There is, however, this: that the single purpose of AA is directed outward and is aimed at a noncompetitve relationship to the larger world. The variable to be maximized is a complementarity and is of the nature of "service" rather than dominance.

posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:44 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Empress: Yeah. That was clarified after the fact.

We agree. Stop arguing with me.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:50 AM on February 18, 2011


Like inductive reasoning?

Personally I have always preferred abductive reasoning.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:59 AM on February 18, 2011


what they reveal about his capacity to ignore or tolerate such a massive amount of cognitive dissonance: "Nonbelievers go to hell. My wife is a nonbeliever. My wife is not going to hell."

But your own thinking on the topic contains similar logical errors. People are very prone to them.

None of us can answer for your husband and what he believes; possibly not even him. He may also be striving to be less wrong as he goes through life.

How is "I am [X religion]" in any way equivalent to "my religion beileves [hateful thing]"?

A religion itself can't believe anything, anyway - it's not sentient; only the individual people can believe or not believe something. Of course, people in a specific religious tradition or denomination might refer to a body of text or tradition that recommends, demands, or directs them to espouse a belief; for instance: "In Roman Catholicism, there is no divorce. You might get a civil divorce, but in the eyes of the church your first marriage is your only sacramental marriage."

But within that broad denomination, there are many individuals whose personal beliefs on that topic will vary. They may recongize the Church-directed belief, but within themselves, reject this piece of dogma and believe something different, while still identifying themselves as members of this faith community.

This tension between leadership and individual believership is always extant in churches. Belief is idiosyncratic - there are a lot of divorced and remarried Catholic people willing to line up for communion. And belief, thoughts, are private and personal and unctrollable by others. That's a good thing both within and outside of a religious context, or we wouldn't be able to have this conversation at all.

This is one reason why one can't assume a member of a denomination espouses a particular belief. There is no way to devise a test of belief that can produce reliable results (or I'm sure some churches would have been using it for milennia now - heck, no matter how many people have been stoned to death or burned at the stake, I don't think anyone was able to see their thoughts as part of the process). Every persuasion of thought we have today, along the spectrum from hardcore athiest to New Age religions, has developed out of the independent thought of one or more people questioning and rethinking that which they were presented with as belief systems. Dissent, diversity, and freedom of thought are, in that way, every bit as important a factor within religious history and the development of the diversity of faiths in the world today as they are within the larger culture.
posted by Miko at 10:01 AM on February 18, 2011


Abductive reasoning culture vs. deductive reasoning culture?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:03 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Personally I have always preferred abductive reasoning.

I usually go with ablative reasoning, cuts down on damage from incoming lasers.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:03 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Personally I have always preferred abductive reasoning.

When cognitive scientists study the way scientists actually think while working, they seem to do a lot of this.
posted by Miko at 10:07 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like abductor reasoning. For example, "IF I get wicked flat abs, THEN I will look hot on vacation."
posted by Miko at 10:08 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like abductor reasoning. For example, "IF I get wicked flat abs, THEN I will look hot on vacation."

Which is why my REAL god is Tony Horton.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:14 AM on February 18, 2011


I invite you to consider, though, that many, many Christians disagree with what your husband was taught about hell, and that it is perhaps uncharitable to assume that they all share in lockstep the very same beliefs.

That's one of the problems she obviously stated in her last reply. If Bob says: My religion believes [hateful thing], and Carol says: This is also my religion, it pretty much follows that Carol believes [hateful thing]. I get that not all people that are of the same religion do not belive the same thing, but that's what makes this so much harder to rationalize for some of us.
posted by Big_B at 10:23 AM on February 18, 2011


I see it as similar to the problems we have with stereotyping people based on country or state affiliation. Just because Texas has the death penalty, it doesn't follow that people who live in Texas are in favor of the death penalty.

Part of the problem is that it's hard to tell which things a person is espousing when they say "I am a member of X faith tradition" without asking a lot of specific (and possibly invasive) questions. So if I say I'm from Vermont people might assume I am in favor of maple syrup [check] and Bernie Sanders [check] and skiing [eh, not so much] but without going down a checklist it's really impossible to tell what I believe. So, people who adhere to some very specific religious traditions [Westboro Baptist maybe, if that is your church...?] could be said to have a strong liklihood of holding certain beliefs, but if someone says "I'm Christian" or even "I'm Baptist" and you jump to being angry at them and shouting at them on a message board because of the God Hates Fags stuff, it's really a stretch to call that any sort of logic-based conclusion.

I come at this from such an off-the-religion-grid that I don't even know if belief in heaven is common or uncommon among Christians but that works out okay because it doesn't actually matter to me that much either. I get hopping mad over textbook/creation arguments and other Church/State stuff, and if someone says "well these are my hateful beliefs BECAUSE I adhere to XYZ religion" well that's just lazy, but really basically no one here is doing that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:30 AM on February 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


f Bob says: My religion believes [hateful thing], and Carol says: This is also my religion, it pretty much follows that Carol believes [hateful thing]

Not at all; there's no real guarantee of that. I'd say there's a certain likelihood but by no means a certainty. See my comment above.

Let's say that Andrew, a member of the Route 49 Christian Bible Church, believes that all those who don't accept Jesus as their personal savior are going to hell. When his wife Sally says "I don't believe; am I going to hell?" it would be possible for Andrewto reply, "No, I don't believe you're going to hell" without being logically inconsistent. Andrew may hold other unstated beliefs that prevent the inconsistency. For instance, he could believe one of the following:

-"God will make an exception for people for whom I intercede in prayer, and I pray for Sally to be saved from Hell."
-"Sally will be converted before she dies or at the time of her death. I'm praying for her to accept Jesus daily and it's going to happen."
-"Sally will over time come to see things my way, through living daily with my example of faith. As her husband it's my role to assist her in salvation."
-"Sally will have an opportunity to accept Christ after death and before Judgment."
-"The 'accept Christ as a personal savior' isn't literal, not something you have to say in those exact words, it really means just living as a good person, as Jesus did"
-"Sally has already accepted Christ and just doesn't know it or remember it.
-"Accepting Christ is the default, and as long as you aren't drawn away into sin you're already there. Sally's never stomped her foot and held a cross upside down and said "I reject you, Jesus" out loud, so she's cool."

I'm not saying these ideas are supportable outside the system of belief Andrew has, or really even that they make any sense within most belief systems; just that they may be internally consistent.

Or maybe he just hasn't put that much thought into the whole matter at all - see my much earlier comment about how most people are just not into the difficult pursuit of a line of thinking.
posted by Miko at 10:41 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


People who disparage AA for being Christian always strike me as being in denial about either their own drinking, or the grip of addictions in general.

If you want to conflate specific criticism of one particular group with denial/abhorrence/assholism, fine. Personally, I don't believe that any organization or treatment plan is beyond criticism or discussion, especially not one which is not significantly more effective than other treatment options.

I'm an atheist, and not a member of AA, but I've also worked with well over 100 serious addicts. Each one who did not want to stop using found a good reason why going to meetings was impossible because of some fault of the meeting. Each one who did want to stop using went to meetings and used what was helpful while leaving the rest.

Yes, this is the moralistic tautology behind AA: if it works, it works because you want it to work, and if it doesn't, it's because you didn't. Meanwhile, the 12-steps basically create a "good reason why going to meetings was impossible because of some fault of the meeting" -- they're a specific spiritual paradigm that doesn't work for everyone, including many people who are attracted to the community aspect of the program yet repelled by 12-step morality.

If AA were truly so universal, and truly so vitally important to recovery, you'd think most people involved would be eager to let go of parts of the program which clearly aren't universal. You'd think the Higher Power thing would have been slowly phased out, just as it has been in the vast majority of modern treatment programs. But it hasn't, and it hasn't because the Higher Power thing is the point. AA is a paradigm for spiritual transformation, as the Big Book admits openly again and again.

Unfortunately, the fact is that many people aren't all that spiritual, and many others aren't spiritual in a Christian way. So they leave -- of course they do! They didn't want to stop drinking! -- and the tautology rolls on. Believing in one's Higher Power is always the key to sobriety, and believing in something else is always an excuse.

The "new" atheist brigade's derision for 12-steps always reminds me of the Christian "conservative" derision for poor people. They both make me kind of sick, not just because they're abhorrent positions, but because they're so well defended that it's impossible to talk sensibly to the assholes who espouse them.

Sure, because disliking 12-step (a specific plan for sobriety which may or may not work for everyone) is exactly the same as disliking poor people (who are individual human beings with their own hopes and dreams).

What makes me kind of sick is the abhorrent position that 12-step is beyond reproach. No single treatment plan works for everyone. No single moral paradigm is universal. Whenever we forget this, we leave countless people out in the cold. When we do this and tell them it's their own fault because they just don't want to be warm, we're acting as if blind adherence to treatment plans and moral paradigms is as important as living human beings... just as you did above.
posted by vorfeed at 11:05 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


> Yes, this is the moralistic tautology behind AA: if it works, it works because you want it to work, and if it doesn't, it's because you didn't.

I've got no real opinion on AA because I've never had any exposure to it IRL, but that formula seems pretty reasonable to me. It's ideally an opt-in program that gives people an opportunity to see themselves. If they don't want to participate then of course it won't work. Why would it? I don't think anyone espousing AA would claim otherwise, or that AA is magic.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:09 AM on February 18, 2011


bingo: "You are not likely to find a group of Jews sitting in a circle talking about overcoming their problems by "embracing mediocrity....""

Bubbe would plotz.
posted by zarq at 11:10 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I initially though that this was a terrible discussion, but I have come around (thanks in large part to my having refrained from commenting - maybe there's a lesson there fore me). I just want to thank all of you sincerely. I have learned a ton by reading the comments here and my respect and appreciation for MetaFilter and its users and mods has increased (as it always does). This is the first MetaFilter thread where I find myself wanting to favorite the majority of the comments - on all sides of the discussion.

Several people have pointed this out, but Jessamyn's comment above really captures a critical point that has come out in this discussion: That is that maybe, sometimes, when an aggressive atheist is attacking religion and the religious, she or he is not actually attacking me (a religious person) at all other than in some vague sense where they just assume things about me and my beliefs that are simply not true. Although I am a religious person, I do not fit Jaqueline's definition of "persons of faith" and I am, therefore, not really the intended target of her antagonism.
posted by The World Famous at 11:14 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


magstheaxe: "This has been a bizarre thread to watch."

They're all bizarre to watch.
posted by zarq at 11:17 AM on February 18, 2011


They're all bizarre to watch.

Yes. Like snowflakes. They're all beautiful in their own special way.
posted by The World Famous at 11:18 AM on February 18, 2011


Discussions about religious faith are something that my husband and I Don't Do Well so we've just stopped talking about it.


Seems like you didn't collate all the visible evidence about your Husband before you married him.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:21 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


My God, you're all still here?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:25 AM on February 18, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: "My God, you're all still here?!"

Aw hell. Did I miss the Rapture?
posted by zarq at 11:45 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The World Famous: "
Several people have pointed this out, but Jessamyn's comment above really captures a critical point that has come out in this discussion: That is that maybe, sometimes, when an aggressive atheist is attacking religion and the religious, she or he is not actually attacking me (a religious person) at all other than in some vague sense where they just assume things about me and my beliefs that are simply not true. Although I am a religious person, I do not fit Jaqueline's definition of "persons of faith" and I am, therefore, not really the intended target of her antagonism.
"

If it works for you, that's great.

I prefer to let people to clarify their own words when they're making all-encompassing assertions, rather than assume what they're saying includes the unspoken caveat, "except me."
posted by zarq at 11:48 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's ideally an opt-in program that gives people an opportunity to see themselves. If they don't want to participate then of course it won't work.

I agree that the equation makes sense in this direction, when phrased in this way. It stops making sense when wanting to participate in one particular program is conflated with wanting to get sober, and it stops making sense when 12-step is conflated with sobriety itself.

It is entirely possible -- even likely -- that many people who sincerely want to get sober don't want AA, and would be better served by another option. Yet AA claims, as a core part of its ideology, that "the A.A. program will work for all alcoholics who are sincere in their efforts to stop drinking". From "Why doesn't A.A. seem to work for some people?": "The answer is that A.A. will work only for those who admit that they are alcoholics, who honestly want to stop drinking -- and who are able to keep those facts uppermost in their minds at all times." There's no mention whatsoever of the possibility that there may be other reasons why AA doesn't work for some people. There is also no mention of the possibility that AA may not work for some people who do admit that they are alcoholics, honestly want to stop drinking, and keep those facts in their minds.

This is more than just "if they don't want to participate then of course it won't work." It's a tautology which defines sincerity as success in the program, and success in the program as sincerity (see also "people who disparage AA for being Christian always strike me as being in denial about either their own drinking..."). That's moralism, not a reasonable statement about people's desire to participate.

I don't think anyone espousing AA would claim otherwise, or that AA is magic.

Someone has "worked with well over 100 serious addicts. Each one who did not want to stop using found a good reason why going to meetings was impossible because of some fault of the meeting. Each one who did want to stop using went to meetings and used what was helpful while leaving the rest."

Each one. To a man. That either is magic -- straight-up David-Bowie-healing-people-with-the-power-of-contact-juggling-and-song magic -- or it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, one which leaves room for other interventions and other possibilities for those who "did not want to stop using".
posted by vorfeed at 11:51 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I prefer to let people to clarify their own words when they're making all-encompassing assertions, rather than assume what they're saying includes the unspoken caveat, "except me."

I absolutely agree. Jaqueline's definition of "people of faith" was very clear and included three parts. Rather than assuming that her definition was intended as a description of all religious people, I took it as presented: A definition of the group of people against whom she is antagonistic. I apply the definition, note that only one of the three prongs applies to me (the one that applies to everyone in the world), and there you have it. I'm not a "person of faith" under her definition. It's as simple as that. And it's nice that she provided the definition.
posted by The World Famous at 11:57 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The World Famous: "I absolutely agree. Jaqueline's definition of "people of faith" was very clear and included three parts. Rather than assuming that her definition was intended as a description of all religious people, I took it as presented: A definition of the group of people against whom she is antagonistic. I apply the definition, note that only one of the three prongs applies to me (the one that applies to everyone in the world), and there you have it. I'm not a "person of faith" under her definition. It's as simple as that. And it's nice that she provided the definition."

I didn't say much about it at the time upthread, but it wasn't until Brandon challenged her and forced her to clarify that I saw a distinction. Considering how many people responded negatively to her statements in this thread it would have been nice if she had attempted to communicate her intent more clearly in her initial statement.

Water under the bridge.
posted by zarq at 12:05 PM on February 18, 2011


For whatever it's worth, zarq, I thought your comments about broad-brush painting above were spot on. As I said, this has been a fantastic discussion.
posted by The World Famous at 12:12 PM on February 18, 2011


The World Famous: "For whatever it's worth, zarq, I thought your comments about broad-brush painting above were spot on. As I said, this has been a fantastic discussion."

Thanks. I think it's gone well too. I just feel like a bunch of the antagonism could have been defused a LOT more quickly! :)
posted by zarq at 12:13 PM on February 18, 2011


Jaqueline's definition of "people of faith" was very clear and included three parts.

I disagree. That "definition" only came about after a fair bit of back-and-forth.

Her first comment in this thread was this:
A lot of the antagonism from freethinkers towards "persons of faith" is that faith means belief in non-testable hypotheses, a refusal to accept any evidence that could disprove your beliefs. Pretty much the exact opposite of the scientific method.
Discussion in the thread up to that point had people for the most part agreeing on a working definition of "people of faith". Some examples:
> "persons of faith" is a completely normal and inclusive way to talk about people of varying religious beliefs.
> As far as I know "persons of faith" is just a catch-all for, uh, persons of faith.
> i've lived most of my life in the south and roll my eyes constantly at the evangelicals trying to push their persecution complex. however, persons of faith is just another way to say "religious" without getting into specifics of denomination.
If you come into a discussion and unilaterally redefine a term that's already in use, especially if you fail completely to state up front "for the purposes of discussion I'm using [term X] to mean [my definition of it]", other people in the discussion are likely to react poorly.

It's pure humpty and argumentatively sloppy at best.
posted by Lexica at 12:52 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


vorfeed--

It's sweet that you think you have to remind me that different treatment modalities work for different people, but if you check my posting history you'll see that I regularly make this same argument, and another, stronger argument (to whit, although some modalities work better for some people, overall> all modalities have highly similar levels of outcome success) in posts about behavior and psychological treatment. Indeed, I have many issues with AA and 12-steps, and do not think that they work for everyone.

However, let's not pretend that you were voicing a cogent criticism of AA. You were tarring it with a Christian brush, and dismissing it as a result. I should have been perhaps been more clear, since nuance is usually not the strong suit of those who take this rhetorical position, that it is this a priori dismissal that reads to me as a defensive tactic. Just as the a priori dismissals among my patients having to do with time, location, "vibe," being surrounded by addicts, and the color of the meeting room chairs all have a distinctly defensive tone. Now, any one of those things might in fact be a legitimate concern that rules out AA for a particular person, but they aren't deployed in the same way that legitimate concerns are deployed. Similarly, staunch literalists, like those who think the earth is 3000 years old because the Bible tells them so, and those who think AA is only appropriate for raging fundamentalists since it mentions a quasi- (or even crypto-) Christian spirituality, may, in fact, not be able to benefit from AA. I suspect you fit that category. Your dismissal, however, has the tone of the first type of defensive dismissal I was talking about.

Please forgive my rhetoric where I spoke of "each one." I see how it confused you, and, once again, your literalism made it seem that I was making a magic claim. I was making a point that was broadly true, but too many caveats really burden responses, and they are tiresome. This one might be your guide to what I mean.

Finally, your concern about tautology is laudable, but, I think, slightly misplaced. Again, I suspect literalism plays some part in your troubles. Since the expectation for positive change plays a significant role in all psychological treatment, as does the instillation of hope, it's appropriate, if a trifle disingenuous, for AA to take an overly positive line. As critical (sic) readers we can choose how to take these sorts of statements. I think I made clear in my first response, where I did not suggest any belief in AA orthodoxy, but instead a position that what is useful can be used without that orthodoxy, that one need not subscribe to all AA's positions for the program to be helpful. Your objections to the tautology read as someone who's just pissed at this program (because you think it's Christian?) and are therefore unwilling to grant the benefit of the doubt to any aspect of it. However, and this may be the larger point of contention, there is an unfortunate tautology at the heart of all behavioral interventions: if you stop the behavior you will have stopped the behavior. In other words, no matter how you get there, eventually you will face the tautology that those who stop drinking are no longer problem drinkers, while those who don't are.
posted by OmieWise at 1:15 PM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aw hell. Did I miss the Rapture?

The best part of it is when she actually starts to rap or something and at first you're all "ok wtf even is this" but by the end you're all "oh hell yes this shit is rad".
posted by elizardbits at 2:50 PM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


However, let's not pretend that you were voicing a cogent criticism of AA. You were tarring it with a Christian brush, and dismissing it as a result.

It sure looks as if you're tarring me with a "defensive" and "literal" brush. Please, go ahead and demonstrate where I've "dismissed" AA in this thread. All I've said is that it is Christian, and that Christian morals aren't universal, and that this means AA doesn't necessarily work for everyone who wants to quit -- this in specific response to people who claimed that AA is not Christian/is universal.

those who think AA is only appropriate for raging fundamentalists since it mentions a quasi- (or even crypto-) Christian spirituality

It should be entirely obvious that there are large categories of people for whom quasi- (or even crypto-) Christian spirituality is acceptable or helpful. It should be equally obvious that there are large categories of people for whom quasi- (or even crypto-) Christian spirituality is not acceptable or helpful. Just as the first category isn't just "raging fundamentalists", the second isn't just "staunch literalists", "people in denial about either their own drinking, or the grip of addictions in general", or "people who are just pissed at this program".

Then again, since "nuance is not my strong suit", maybe I'm just missing the incredibly subtle rhetoric (sic) you're using, here.

However, and this may be the larger point of contention, there is an unfortunate tautology at the heart of all behavioral interventions: if you stop the behavior you will have stopped the behavior. In other words, no matter how you get there, eventually you will face the tautology that those who stop drinking are no longer problem drinkers, while those who don't are.

I agree, but that's not what AA says. AA says that people who stop drinking through lifetime adherence to the 12 steps are no longer problem drinkers. AA's ideology insists that people who stop drinking through other methods (or stop drinking through 12-step and then move on) have not actually stopped the behavior, and are dry drunks who will eventually relapse. Which brings me to...

I think I made clear in my first response, where I did not suggest any belief in AA orthodoxy, but instead a position that what is useful can be used without that orthodoxy, that one need not subscribe to all AA's positions for the program to be helpful.

The insistence that everyone who "wants to stop" can or will "take what is useful" from AA is, actually, a major point of AA orthodoxy. That's the problem I have with it, in a nutshell: AA doesn't agree that different treatment modalities work for different people. It claims that AA works for everyone, and simultaneously claims that those it doesn't work for just don't want to quit.

For all your talk about how "the expectation for positive change plays a significant role in all psychological treatment, as does the instillation of hope", you seem to be missing why I think that message is potentially harmful to those who don't fit in with AA. Hint: it has nothing to do with Christianity.
posted by vorfeed at 3:25 PM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


One more thing: you don't know me. You don't know the slightest thing about me, much less about my personal experience with addiction, yet you've been willing to make a number of very strong pronouncements about me, based solely on the fact that I think AA is Christian.

Maybe you should ask yourself why that is, especially if you're so concerned about defensive behavior.
posted by vorfeed at 3:35 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


How do people not understand the "All Beagles are dogs, but all dogs are not necessarily Beagles" logic game. Venn diagram!
posted by gjc at 4:42 PM on February 18, 2011


AA doesn't agree that different treatment modalities work for different people. It claims that AA works for everyone, and simultaneously claims that those it doesn't work for just don't want to quit.

Interesting discussion, but maybe you could cite something to back this up.

Hint: it has nothing to do with Christianity.

Hint: when in a discussion it is usually good practice to come out and say what you mean instead of making other people guess what you might mean.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:00 PM on February 18, 2011


Leaving aside all the back-and-forth about other stuff in this thread, I just wanted to say I think it's bizarre to equate "persons of faith" with "protected (or persecuted) class." I just thought it was the kinda newish way to say "religious people" while being inclusive of people who wouldn't necessarily call themselves religious--and Bible belt fundies hardly fit that latter description. They're mostly just fine with being called religious people.

Presidents use the term when talking about religion--Obama does it and I think GWBush did. Wasn't Gore the one who popularized "faith tradition" instead of "religion"? It's just a way to categorize a range of people who may have hugely divergent beliefs but for whom "faith" is a significant part of their lives.
posted by torticat at 9:31 PM on February 18, 2011


explosion : "I will continue to object to the use of People-first language. It is most often used to "other" people."

Interesting.

I was taught not to use people-first language when talking about disabled people for the reasons I articulated on another MeTa thread, but hadn't given much thought to whether similar effects might be seen with other groups.
posted by the latin mouse at 11:49 PM on February 18, 2011


Someone has "worked with well over 100 serious addicts. Each one who did not want to stop using found a good reason why going to meetings was impossible because of some fault of the meeting. Each one who did want to stop using went to meetings and used what was helpful while leaving the rest."

Each one. To a man. That either is magic -- straight-up David-Bowie-healing-people-with-the-power-of-contact-juggling-and-song magic -- or it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, one which leaves room for other interventions and other possibilities for those who "did not want to stop using".


Or it could be that it's a support group for people who sincerely want to stop drinking, and a big pain in the ass for people who do not. The sincere desire to stop drinking -- like the sincere desire to let go of any other sort of addictive behavior -- may be enough for some people to pull it off on their own, but if you think that sustaining that resolution without the moral support of like-minded individuals will be at all easy in the midst of constant temptation, you're nuts. I do not think it's impossible, but I do think it would be extraordinarily difficult. I think it's easier to do when you have people to fall back on, and I feel like this should be so obvious to anyone that I really can't believe that people who argue otherwise are speaking in anything like good faith. In any event, this is certainly not magic -- nobody is laying hands on a drunk to take away their ills. It's a treatment that works in many cases, and not in others. That the same can be said for chemotherapy when treating cancer would, I think, prompt few people to dismiss chemotherapy as snake oil.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:35 AM on February 19, 2011


AA doesn't agree that different treatment modalities work for different people. It claims that AA works for everyone, and simultaneously claims that those it doesn't work for just don't want to quit.

Interesting discussion, but maybe you could cite something to back this up.


Speaking anecdotally from my own 12-step experience, it's absolutely true. The 'treatment' is not like a pill that some people can swallow, shrug, and write off as ineffective. It's a whole lifestyle, really. People who are willing to get absorbed in that lifestyle, which involves a lot of confession to strangers, self-deprecation, and ongoing introspection, are going to stay focused on their "disease" and how "powerless" they are over it. This atmosphere is conducive to abstaining from your "drug of choice," It is also, for some people, not in line with how they want to live. They end up thinking "Sure, I want to quit ___, but not *this* way." And then there are others, who are so desperate to quit that they'll do anything. They have "hit bottom" and do not feel they're in a position to be judgmental about their method of treatment.
posted by bingo at 9:03 AM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


That the same can be said for chemotherapy when treating cancer would, I think, prompt few people to dismiss chemotherapy as snake oil.

I never said AA was "snake oil". It clearly works for some people, just as chemotherapy does. Doctors don't tell people that chemotherapy works for everyone who sincerely wants to get better, though.

It is also, for some people, not in line with how they want to live. They end up thinking "Sure, I want to quit ___, but not *this* way."

Yes, and a lot of people in AA think "sure, I want to quit ____, but not alone/through moderation/through CBT, etc". That doesn't mean they don't sincerely want to quit. It's reasonable to seek treatments which are in line with your philosophy and the way you want to live, because you're more likely to stick with those kinds of treatments.

The fact is that things like brief interventions are known to work before people "hit bottom", and there are many other programs which also work about as well as AA does. "Those it doesn't work for just don't want to quit" seems to hold within AA because AA itself is designed around that concept, not because addiction is.
posted by vorfeed at 10:47 AM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


magstheax:
You might take a moment to remember that the whole country isn't like that, and that someone using the phrase "persons of faith" is probably just trying to include folks, not crying "WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE POOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS?!"

Yeah, you're right. I might. And just as soon as I move someplace where it's not religious sanctimony morning, noon and night, I probably will. Sure, I've forgotten what it's like to live among people who think well (or at least neutrally) of others, irrespective of what church they attend. Sorry I let that affect my perspective, but I think that's the story of human nature. You know what you know, that is, what you're exposed to the most.

I'm sorry I let my bias cause me to misinterpret your inclusive language. And I think you're right - I'm also probably going to foreswear any god talk, or talking about god talk, except IRL. It's too hard to see what people mean unless you can see the people.

Thanks all you mefighters for turning this into a real substantive discussion. That's what I hoped for, although I didn't do a good job opening it.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:33 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


toodleydoodley: " Yeah, you're right. I might. And just as soon as I move someplace where it's not religious sanctimony morning, noon and night, I probably will. Sure, I've forgotten what it's like to live among people who think well (or at least neutrally) of others, irrespective of what church they attend. Sorry I let that affect my perspective, but I think that's the story of human nature. You know what you know, that is, what you're exposed to the most."

My wife and I both spent some of our childhoods in (different) small towns in Texas where we had similar experiences with Christians. I know exactly what you mean -- they divided into cliques based on their church affiliations and did their best to "Other" and look down their noses at everyone else. When I became an adult, I looked back and wondered how they were able to function without that built-in support system when they left those small-towns. It took me a while to realize that they carry 'em with them. They tend to move into areas where the "right" Churches are already established, and slip seamlessly into a new community that's just like their old one. In this way, their Church-community inculcated world views and preconceptions can remain relatively unchallenged.

Non-Christians aren't immune to this, of course. But even living in New York we tend to run into people in business and my personal life with attitudes and assumptions that are somewhat isolated and insular. So my wife and I do our best to seek out folks who aren't like that. And that's one of the reasons I'm an active member here. We're a very far-flung and diverse community here on MeFi and while this is a great environment if you're an auto-didact like me, it's even an even more wonderful place to be if you're looking for people who are capable of and interested in seeing the world through a wider lens.

toodleydoodley: " Thanks all you mefighters for turning this into a real substantive discussion. That's what I hoped for, although I didn't do a good job opening it."

It's nice to meet you. :)
posted by zarq at 3:34 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry for disappearing on y'all after promising to respond. I began writing a long response on Friday, but then got busier at work/school than expected, and now I think I'd better put off continuing to participate in any fight-y conversations until I am less PMS-y. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 1:00 AM on February 23, 2011


How do people not understand the "All Beagles are dogs, but all dogs are not necessarily Beagles" logic game.

I know! That was such a huge plot hole in All Dogs Go to Heaven.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:24 AM on February 23, 2011


How many more years do I have to let you dog me around?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:00 PM on February 23, 2011


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