Thursday, January 17, 2013

The objects of religious atheism

So this is where religious atheism ends. The same moral absolutism that is so repellent in Christianity. Creeds that one must recite, or be "denounced".

Yes, seriously, shunnings.

I've never been much of a fan of Richard Carrier. I wade through his supercilious tone because he writes interesting things about the historical Jesus. In that respect, he's worth reading.

As an atheist, he's a thorough prick. Impossibly shrill and pompous in one deliciously pumped-up package, he spends a lot of time and effort trying to prove God doesn't exist, as though you could settle it all like that.

You can't prove it. That's the point. It answers to that feeling in you that there should be capital-a Answers, to that moment -- even Dawkins feels it -- when you are out and about and you're like "wow that's beautiful" and there is the shadow of an "and".

Carrier wants to squash and batter that shadow until he's certain that it doesn't exist. Us nonreligious types don't care whether it does (we are rather the antipodes of my dad, who believes in God but would most likely be entirely unperturbed were it proved to him that God didn't exist; he'd shrug and go about his day -- in the same way, most of us have a little moment of "spiritual" feeling and say, well, that's just the product of my socialisation in this particular culture, no big deal).

And they were sad boys, angry with their peers for not being as smart as them, for not being able to see, even with coaching, what they could see was obvious. The rules all seemed wrong, because they weren't rational.

Now they can have their own religion, with their own rules, their own Nicene Creeds.

As it happens, I'm not for antifeminist bullying, but neither am I for victims naming the crime, nor for someone defining what I should think something is, rather than what I would agree it is (the basis of communication is shared meaning, after all, because it is very hard to impose meaning). In other words, some things are questions of the frame.

So some woman makes a video about her study of video games, in which, it'll stun you, she finds that chicks have big boobs and are drawn to be alluring to teen boys. (I know this without watching her video, which yes I know is horrible antifeminist bullying and, from another frame, a fair critique of the value of her work. There'd be a footnote here if I wasn't too lazy to code it, and it would say, Approximately zero, which is true of anyone's report on their journey into something they knew would horrify them. Because the question, the researcher is studying is not "what is in these games?" but "what instances of the thing I abhor can I find in these games?")

Yah, that's not perfect, but we have to walk to whatever grim utopia it is Carrier wants to live in (the planet Vulcan as far as I can make out, a place where we must all by the force of our reason arrive at the same conclusions as he does); you cannot run.


And look, Atheism+ cultists can look away, but sexism is the whole spectrum of saying men and women differ. And as a heterosexual man, I'm bound to say that they do differ. (And I know that you can see different but equal and read it separate but equal.) Some of it is benign. Yes, it excludes people who do not fit its frame but our relationships with each other are not all defined by how you fit one frame or another. (What I'm saying is, I might think a shape is "womanly" but that doesn't mean I think there is anything wrong or inferior, about any other shape or that how someone looks is a particularly important part of discourse with them, which with most people occurs in a space where that judgement would be inappropriate and irrelevant. Or in shorter English, you can fancy a woman without that affecting your interactions with her or any other woman.)

Some of it's far from benign.

But there's a continuum, on which a thing can be judged in one way or another, not single instances of a monolithic sexism. You might draw the line here; I might draw it there; but society draws it somewhere else. You think you can yank the line right back to where yours is, and that anyone who won't join you on your side of it is a heretic, in need of burning (and some of the comment threads have a hint of violence about them, in among the groupthink); I think there's a point it should be yanked back past, but then there's a stretch where, whether you believe it is negotiable or not, it will have to be negotiated.

Anyway, the researcher blogged shitloads of Youtube comments that were pretty ugly, but, hey, I'm no "researcher" and I don't claim to be a media expert, as she does, but I do know that there are several trolling sites where links to very earnest studies of things everyone already knows about can get dropped and then you are dealing with a self-selecting community of sexually frustrated borderline personalities, who will flood your Youtube with comments that will shock you (because they're meant to -- and what a great triumph for the trolls that they managed to get you to blog about their horrible antifeminism, like they would give a shit about any of that, and weren't just performing for you), and that videos like hers do not attract "thousands" of ravening misogynists in a couple of hours. Maybe she should have "researched" how the flying monkeys are mobilised?

But why worry about the facts of the matter? Those comments were "evidence" and that is far more important than the truth. This is what religions do: they take what is manifested from their own point of view, and spin a universe out of it. They do not imagine a world in which they are just not all that important, where most of what goes on, goes on without them and without regard of them.

How are we behaving like Christians? By taking a stand on moral issues and expecting our fellow human beings to adopt basic humanist moral values and denounce those who won’t. Which means they think atheism should be thoroughly amoral and devoid of values.

Dude, atheism just means you don't believe there's a god. It is thoroughly amoral and devoid of "values". WTF? That's what's good about it. We don't get hidden a list of spankable offences by the deity; we have to figure it out for ourselves. And we don't get to share the same answer because ours isn't handed down, it's created by us.

And "moral issues"? Jeezus spare me. These aren't moral issues, any more than the christian exception to gays and promiscuity is moral. It's your view of what's right.

Anyway, this was way too much for what is just a tiff between nerds at atheist "gatherings" (because yeah, you guessed, atheists like church as much as believers do, because it's actually a fine experience to be among people who share your beliefs and come together to acclaim them). Someone made someone else cry by mocking her jewellery, and someone else made a video laughing at her for crying about the mocking.

All people who live in the real, cruel world are about now thinking "why is he reading a sixth-former's blog?" and yeah, it really is the same overemotionalising of petty shit that exercises intelligent year 11 students who aren't getting any sex.

So yeah, too much for that, but my attention is drawn quite often to the religious atheists and I feel, quietly, that I'd rather have a god than none if having none means I have to sign up for Richard Carrier as pope.

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