the miscellany chronicle

bit of this, bit of that

4.24.2007

because they did it first, apparently

The post is interesting, the comments moreso.

There's another post at Pandagon about meanie atheism, and it raises some great points-- atheists are despised by the current establishment, prevented from holding public office, treated like monsters-- or worse, children. (You know, sanctimonious people who cluck over atheists like lost lambs.)

The problem that's cropping up is that Pandagon-- up till now something of an ideological haven for those liberal christians who know full well the establishment of religion is an offense to God and man-- has suddenly turned into an explicitly hostile environment for people who identify with every one of the blog's beliefs except for atheism.

This, for example, is a tedious interaction to have:

atheist: Theists believe in lies, which is why they hate gay people.
theist: I do not hate gay people, and I believe in god.
atheist: YOU HATE ATHEISTS.
theist: No, I--
atheist: YOU EAT JESUS AT COMMUNION, PSYCHO.

Okay, so that's a little more dramatic than the actual conversations I saw happening, but to see so much rabid essentialism going on at Pandagon was a little baffling to me.

I understand that as a theistic American, I am automatically given a position of privilege. At the same time, I've spent most of my life trying to refute that privilege, openly calling myself pro-choice within the church, arguing for gay rights with people who thought I was practically a heretic for doing so, once even going up to a pastor after a sermon to ask that he stop using offensive gender stereotypes. There were people at my childhood church who wanted nothing to do with my family because we were Democrats, people who thought I was a bad example to other children because I was a girl and I spoke up in class-- people who wanted us gone.

But there are people at Pandagon-- commentors, mostly, as Amanda has been less strident-- who don't think that sort of viral influence is any good, because it comes from people who believe in god, and are therefore ignorant or purposely blind.

And I hate this kind of binary thinking. I hate it when "religious" people talk about how disgusting abstract gay people are. I hate it when white supremacists talk about how disgusting abstract black people are. And this disdain for abstract theists is frustrating in a similar way.

I find myself especially frustrated because they are using "logic" to tout a position which we know-- experientially-- does not work. Finding a person you disagree with and calling that person an idiot does nothing but create hostility. Asking them actual questions about their beliefs, explaining alternative points of view, and maybe undermining illogic and ignorance-- that is something that works in real life.

There have been examples of the latter form of dialogue cropping up with the partial-birth abortion ban, one heart-wrenching example here. She explains that the D&E was necessary to save her life, that the twins she was carrying would not have lived even if she sacrificed herself for their sake. The result of her telling a story about a real person instead of a construct is that many commentors say that they have always been pro-life, but reading her story has made them realize that the issue is more complicated than they ever knew. One person says:

I used to be a fundamentalist, and was pretty ignorant on all things related to pregnancy problems. I've since done a 180 on most of my views, abortion included, and most of that has had to do more with education than just viewpoint. It was hearing stories like yours that made me realize there are situations I never dreamed of, that the world isn't as easy as I would have liked it to be, that anyone who claims there is "never" a reason to do something is someone who hasn't been exposed to reality.


I am a theist, and nothing is more beautiful to me than someone saying "I used to be a fundamentalist," because it means a person can believe something, learn more about it and change his/her mind. People can re-examine their convictions-- but they do it from hearing new things, from learning subtleties, from unexpected experiences, from gentle disagreements-- from almost anything except HEY MORON YOUR GOD IS A DELUSION.

I think Dawkins certainly has a place in public discourse, but at the same time I wish that some of Pandagon's commentors would consider that the more personal camaraderie of a shared space and philosophy does not lend itself to his sweeping statements and generalizations.

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