Rationalists are rarely rational,
Objectivists are anything but,
Realists hold views completely at odds with reality,
And nationalists have very little faith in their or their nation-state's future.
Don't get me started on people whose publicly-facing identities (like Twitter profiles) say that they're a husband, wife, father, mother, or Christian. The more they harp on it, the more they probably suck at it.
I've also noticed that neoliberal Reddit atheists have very firm beliefs about the nature of God and how one should relate to him, and aren't shy about preaching those beliefs. But if you've read my earlier entries, you already know that.
Clarification (or "wow, you seem upset")
I'm actually in a more or less okay mood right now. There's just been some drama going on in the tabletop gaming community, where a well-respected figure basically wrote an apologium for abuse and was publicly scandalized by someone getting mad at their harasser (of several years). A bunch of women called this figure out for making them less credible and their lives more dangerous, and he went on to write like five pages of 'splaining, while a ton of guys cheered him on.
So this has been one of those weekends. -_- And it's affecting people I care about.
On the plus side, new episodes of Steven Universe are running every weekday for the next two weeks, and apparently something big's happening. So, public service announcement: Even if you're normally okay with spoilers, mcburnett, one of the series' writers, says that you really really shouldn't spoil these episodes.
Now to commence two weeks of nerve-wracking tension, including a three-parter separated by a weekend. o-o;
Please pray to whatever you worship, that justice will be done. For all of the gender, sexual, religious, and ethnic minorities whose lives are policed by the majority's cruelty, and ended through violence, deprivation, and despair.
After you are finished praying, please find those who are endangered and hurting, and help them. Not by erasing what makes them endangered, but by making it safe for them to be themselves.
My going on living, today, is a political act. Just like it has been every day, for the past few years. I shouldn't have to face the opposition that makes it political. I should just be able to take it for granted.
tl;dr: Religious abuse only happens because religious leaders are allowed to claim ownership of things other people need in order to live, which is basically the spiritual version of "private property." Because of this, most Internet Atheist criticisms of "religion" would be better directed at capitalism instead.
Content note: Discussion of abusive religion and eating disorders.
From CollectQT's Political Definitions page:
capitalism - An economic system wherein the means of production are largely privately owned. Capitalism is inherently oppressive.
To unpack that a little, "the means of production" are what you need access to in order to make a living. They can be anything from printing presses to app stores to hunting preserves.
In a capitalist economic system, like the ones in China and the United States, these things are all privately owned, meaning that one person or corporation is allowed to control them despite the fact that everyone needs them. This is why capitalism is inherently oppressive; whatever political freedoms you may have, the people who own the means of production have the power to decide whether you live or die, and under what circumstances.
When critics of capitalism are talking about "private property," this is what they are criticizing. The "property" in question is the means of production, not your personal effects. They are not saying that you should be forced to give up your plushies or miniatures. On the other hand, if you've ever seen someone eBay their most prized possessions in order to make next month's rent, you know that this is exactly what capitalism does to the people it makes into losers.
Content note: Bad religion, intolerant atheism, and implied homo/trans/everythingphobia.
What do I do if I have presented these questions to bishops and leaders and anyone and everyone who will listen to me and nobody has any answers but when I go quietly in prayer to the Lord and I hear the entire and total opposite of what you are asking me to do? And what if that answer gives me relief and peace and makes me a better mom and wife and sister and friend? And what if that peace is interrupted every single time I am “called to the battlefront” for this cause? What if it destroys my family, President? That’s what I am really asking. What if “defending the family” ruins my own?
Sometimes, the people who attack bad religion (or all religion) on the grounds that it's logically abhorrent remind me of people like "Brett," in the comments on the above-linked article. Who replied to the author by telling her that "defending the family" by attacking other people and destroying their families is right, despite the obvious harm it does to her and people she cares about, because the Mormon prophets have said so and God says they will never lead anyone astray. QED.
Logic is useless or even harmful if you are operating from faulty premises. The most abusive religions, in my experience, actually rely very strongly on the kind of logic that "Brett" uses. They have no use for feelings and spiritual experiences that prompt people to abandon this logic even when they don't know how to argue with it, or hearts and minds that are open enough to listen to people they "know" are wrong about everything.
When I am determining whether or not a belief (or belief system) is harmful and abusive, I don't look at whether it's theistic or not, or at which god it worships. I look at whether or not it shuts down questioning, inoculates people against empathy and understanding, and tells them to do things that they feel are wrong.
Attacks on religious expression are an example of a program undertaken by left-leaning individuals without thought for how this may be a part of capital’s larger approach to destroying sources of meaning outside of itself. […]
Marx and Engels never saw some sort of “defeat of religion” as a necessary condition for moving society forward.
"Civ V" lets you build a civilization (of humans) "to stand the test of time." In game terms, this means you start with stone-age settlers and end up with world domination, in or before the modern age.
That's the first thing that's horrifying in hindsight, to someone who grew up with these games and just played them again last night. The goal isn't to coexist and appreciate global diversity. It's to dominate all life on Earth, whether through armed conflict or cultural hegemony. And while there are benefits to cooperating with "minor city-states," in your struggle against the other players, by the modern age you drop all pretense of a mutually beneficial relationship and go straight to rigging elections. Because if you don't, your opponents' spies will.
The second thing is the cultural biases. They let you choose from dozens of historical leaders, but whether you're playing Boudica, Hiawatha, or George Washington you end up playing America F*** Yeah in practice. Either that, or a cartoon version of 20th century dictatorships.
Here's a short list of disturbing stuff from the "social policies" interface, as of the Gods and Kings expansion (I'm one behind):
"Faith" and "Rationalism" are mutually exclusive.
Socialism is a precursor to Communism in the "Order" policy tree. You can't have it active at the same time as "Liberty," which is the only way to grant universal suffrage.
Somehow, you can have Theocracy and Religious Tolerance active at the same time (and are rewarded for doing so).
There is an honest-to-goddess Meritocracy social policy, which was not ironically named (at least not on purpose).
You're rewarded for producing Great Artists, Engineers, Scientists, and so on, all of whom are named after real-world figures. There's no argument or discussion about what makes these people "great," and there are an awful lot of white guys, like patent troll Orville Wright.
Building a bank and stock exchange in every city won't result in rampant speculation, housing crises, and market crashes. There's no such thing as international banking. Money's a tool to be used by political leaders.
"Wonders of the World" are unique and exclusive, to the point where if your civilization's one turn behind in producing the Sistine Chapel you have to abandon it and start over once Catherine of Russia builds it instead. Awe-inspiring temples and monuments aren't ways to bring the world together, they're just more tools for domination and promoting inequality.
"Natural Wonders" are special and inviolate, and can't be "improved" by your Workers. They're pretty much the only land tiles that are like this, however. Everything, and I mean everything else, eventually gets railroad tracks, lumber mills, and strip mines laid out across it, until your country's a patchwork of farms, city skylines, and smokestacks. There are no ecological consequences to building coal-fired factories, nuclear power plants, dams, quarries, and gaudy landmarks everywhere. The sea level does not rise. Resources are never depleted. No continent-sized islands of garbage form in the ocean. If nonhuman species go extinct, you don't hear about them.
And that, to me, is the most horrifying thing about Civ V. Watching a game of it play out feels, to me, like it might to most humans watching the robots from the Matrix plate the Earth in cast iron. Nonhuman species have zero agency, zero voice, and zero way to fight back as they are annihilated, mere obstacles in the way of "progress." Rewards for leaving wild areas wild are few and far between, and there's always the possibility that you'll strike oil right next to the Great Barrier Reef.
This game is nightmarish.
I'll stop playing after I finish one more turn. :P
"You should seek after things with eternal significance."
Why this belief is harmful: On the surface, this sounds like Jesus' "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven." But rather than meaning that you should help people and seek spiritual meaning, instead of hoarding stuff for yourself, the way it was taught to me in Mormonism is that you should never trust your own judgment about pretty much anything. It doesn't matter if something seems harmless, or healthy, or even necessary to you or others. If it's not going to be around forever, or be okay to have or do or be with in God's Celestial Kingdom, then it's worthless.
This can have horrifying consequences.
"Honest seekers of truth can know for certain that God lives and has a plan for their lives."
Why it's harmful: Because being preoccupied with getting ultimate answers to unanswerable questions means you find them, one way or another. Whether by having someone else tell you, or making them up for yourself. And because these questions are unanswerable, that means all the answers are wrong.
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A few years ago, an elderly relative of mine died, and I ended up staying in their house -- an old house that had been in the family for ages -- to help sort out their possessions.
I did not hear any voices, or see any apparitions while staying there. But I felt these presences all around me, watching me over my shoulder, looking down on me and judging me. It felt like being under a spotlight in a darkened room, while all around you people are whispering disapprovingly about you. And all you can hear is the hissing of their voices, and the judgmental tone they are taking.
What were they so upset about? Well, here I was, surrounded by fine furniture and The Classics, and what was I doing in my free time while I was there? Writing Digimon fanfic in a $0.99 notebook, and playing video games on a gaudy white plastic box that I'd hooked up to their television. Plus, I was young, and I occasionally thought about sex. The horror!
The religion I was part of at the time, Mormonism, was in some ways an ancestor cult. Their meetinghouses have "Family History" libraries, where many members spend hours looking up genealogy. Once they have enough records on someone, they can take their name to the temple and have "baptisms for the dead" and other ordinances done on their behalf, so that this person can have the chance to accept Mormonism in the next life. Some report having experiences where their ancestors or other people came to them, sometimes in dreams, asking for their temple work to be done.
I think that these expectations can be self-fulfilling, in that they cause people to have these experiences. When I was really young, for instance, doing proxy baptisms and confirmations for the first time, I interpreted the feelings I had -- of sacredness, cleanliness, and being accepted by other people -- as the approval of the people that the work was being done for. I thought they must be smiling on me, just like I'd been told they would.
But I don't think all demons and spirits are created by "religion." Sometimes, I think, it's the other way around. Some spirits are already there, and traditions start when people find ways of dealing with them. Whether they're healthy traditions or not depends less on whether they start for the "right" reasons, IMO, and more on how they help people deal with the real experiences that they have.
I also came down with bronchitis while I was there, in my relative's old dusty house. I'm glad for modern medicine, and for the fact that I had access to it back then, because it meant people understood what had caused it and could give me some pills to help cure it.
But understanding what caused it didn't make my lungs any less sensitive, or the house any less dusty. Likewise, my "testimony" of temple work didn't help me deal with the feeling of being judged, any more than a "rational" understanding would have. Because what I didn't need, right then, was a clear and definite answer to the question of whether I was dealing with the spirits of my dead ancestors, or my own impressions of how they would have felt about me.
What I needed was permission to flip them the bird, and to live my life as though their feelings didn't matter. Whether that meant changing the way I related to them, or getting the heck out of a haunted house.
They'd be about as appalled by ads for technology that lets parents lock down children's internet use as we would be by overtly sexist ads from the 50's, that take it for granted a hetero husband needs to control his wife's spending, not let her anywhere near the car, and administer corporal punishment to her.
They'd be as nonplussed by the use of "human" to mean "person" and "human beings" or "humankind" to mean "people" as many of us are by "man" and "mankind" being used to mean those things.
They wouldn't even bother to engage pretty much any of today's conservative or neoliberal talking points, since it'd be obvious to them that these are just excuses for why large groups of people don't deserve life or dignity. Because of this, they'd be accused of derailing or "playing the race card" or "making everything about your gender" if they actually tried to talk about this stuff.
They'd find modern cities about as frightening and unpleasant as we would a medieval town, with its rivers of sewage and excrement thrown from windows.
Their minds would be blown by the almost-complete lack of atheist churches and firebrand atheist preachers, and how Christianity seems to be serving that role instead.
They'd think our computers are hilarious and adorable.
Finally, they'd be very chilly, and need to find clothes to wear that aren't suited for swimming.
I think this happens when a given ideal becomes an end in itself, and not a means to an end. Suddenly people's lives are based around this ideal, instead of the other way around, and anything that threatens this ideal seems to threaten their lives by extension.
I think this applies to evangelicals going after gays, movement atheists going after theists, and free software zealots going after anything and everything in the world that might make computing and coding more accessible to women. The way things are, or were, or should be, is perfect. If you don't exist in that ideal world, then you shouldn't exist at all.
I think this sort of inhumane idealism is worse than simple inhumaneness of convenience, because it actively seeks out people to destroy them, whether by conversion or by making life as something different impossible. And I think that part of the reason it gets so vicious about it is because it's sublimating the energy that should have gone into questioning its own assumptions, and hearing other people's stories.
I know in my case I spent most of my life not just willing to throw myself away for an ideal, but actively trying to do so. I spent years hating myself for not being the perfect Mormon, and struggling with Linux to try to get it to do what I needed it to. And when I found out that my theritype was a carnivore, I felt sick and wanted to cease to exist, because I felt like every day that I lived was a tragedy.
It's taken a lot of work to try to reconstruct my morality based on what's right for people, including myself, because of how much I saw the very idea mocked. It's supposedly weak, selfish, and dishonest to not sacrifice yourself. But the more I see how dishonest and selfish people who want others to cease to exist are, and how hard it is to convince myself that I shouldn't just curl up and die when I'm asked to, I start to question that. I guess.
I think this is why we're so quick to back down, to infosuicide even, and why it takes forever for us to get to the point where we voice our concerns about something that's hurting us. Deep down, we agree with everyone who's said we don't deserve to exist, for every reason. We consider every request made of us to be reasonable, by default, and every request we make to be an unreasonable imposition.
So when someone tells us to get the hell off their Internet, we already agree with them that we shouldn't be there.
It takes a lot of work to construct the illusion that we deserve to exist, and it's easy for that illusion to vanish.
When it stops asking questions, making hypotheses, and pointing out the existing evidence, and starts telling you what you should do and believe based on the evidence. Regardless of what's healthy for you, or what works for you, or what kind of person you are.
It's not offensive to not worship a deity, and to self-identify as an atheist ("without-gods-ist"). Choosing to worship or not worship is a personal choice.
It's extremely offensive to tell someone how they should make that personal choice, and to insist that only you have the right answers to theological questions like "what is god?" and "how should I relate to her?"
Whether your answers to those questions come from a religious or atheistic background, simply having different answers to questions of pure theology is not in and of itself offensive. For instance,
It's not offensive to look at the available evidence, both in neurology and in people's self-reported experiences of divinity, and conclude that gods are probably names people give to feelings and experiences they have and concepts that they revere. But,
It's extremely offensive to tell me that, because this is what you've decided my deity is, you don't believe she exists. Because for me and many others, she does.
My relationship with Inari Okami is one of the most important ones in my life. She literally saved my life at one point, just by talking to me and being there when I needed her. She may not be that important to most of the people in the world, who barely acknowledge the kami of foxes and rice (even if they like both of those things). But to me, she is in some ways closer than family, and has been in my life longer than any of my partners or adopted family members.
I have chosen to be agnostic with regards to the question of how Inari exists. Because whatever the "true" answer to that question is -- assuming there is one -- it doesn't affect my relationship with her.
This isn't a case of "blinding myself to the evidence." I am fascinated by the evidence, and the neuroscience behind theological experiences. I regularly discuss the divine on a purely material level, and even have at least one materialist explanation for how and why I am otherkin.
It's simply a case where the theory doesn't affect the practice, sort of like how the mechanics of why I'm transgender don't affect the fact that I need to transition. For whatever reason, praying to Inari works for me. Focusing on her presence and listening for her (spiritual) voice is an effective meditation, which helps calm me and clear my thoughts of distractions. I am often reminded of things I needed to do, or helped to realize a new way of seeing something, while praying to her. The fact that I subjectively experience this as Inari telling me these things doesn't change that, and if anything means that my current approach to prayer works.
Conflating my experiences with those of movie and TV show characters who "hear voices in their heads," or implying that I am in any way dangerous because I both pray and listen for answers to prayer, is blindingly ignorant and offensive. It negates my personal experiences, replacing them with a Hollywood stereotype that bears no resemblance to my life. And it causes me material harm by diminishing my credibility, my ability to say what I go through and have others believe me, which I already have problems with on account of being female, trans*, and disabled (not to mention a plural system and otherkin).
Atheists know better than most what it's like to be seen as a scary and dangerous person, just because of what goes on in their heads. They don't need to make the world worse for other people who are marginalized because of religion.
Inspired by the Mormon-to-English dictionary I wrote earlier, and the fact that movement atheists attach a lot of emotional meaning to some seemingly straightforward phrases!
Please note that this isn't meant as criticism of anyone's choice not to worship a deity, or to identify as atheist for that reason. I completely respect that, and I think there are a lot more people who would choose that if they felt it was an option than there currently are. This is meant as criticism of what I call "movement atheists" or "internet atheists," who are basically the bad kind of Christian except they believe in one fewer god. And are more snobby and less shouty.
Content Note: Racism, sexism, classism, speciesism, theophobia, heteronormativity, and snark. Lots of snark.
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... who believe in one fewer god.
That's how aliaspseudonym summed up the discussion I had last night with someone from FFXIV, which prompted a friends-locked ragepost right afterwards. Please note that the "Christians" being compared to here are the non-pluralistic ones, who believe there's only one real god and only one right way to relate to him.
Content note: Homophobia, theophobia, being angry, and swears, all behind the cut. Click here to skip if you are reading the entry by itself.
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I think that getting angry, then thinking more calmly about it, and continuing to maintain my boundaries and not see myself as the problem, is the healthiest response I've had to being comprehensively invalidated in awhile.
At the same time, though, this whole thing was an unpleasant reminder that I don't get to pretend to be normal. I thought I could, I really hoped that I could, but I'm one of the "monsters" that avia talks about. Who can't be understood or accepted, if anyone sees what she is. Not by society at large; not even by supposedly progressive sectors of society like the LGBT-friendly Free Company I was in, in FFXIV.
(Please note that during the conversation, this person also said stuff that was blindingly offensive and ignorant, about neurodiverse people and plural systems.)
I'm not tying myself to a Free Company, or another club or guild organization, unless it's a small group of friends like the people that I know on Dreamwidth. I'm tired of being triggered every day, and not knowing how to escape except by logging out. I don't think I get to have that experience, of feeling camaraderie and acceptance with large groups of people, and I think I'm okay with that. Because I would rather hold out for people who accept me, than erase "unacceptable" parts of myself to have friends (as opposed to purely professional relationships).
I am going to ****ing platinum that game, and I am going to do it my way.
We, as 'kin, are often accused of "not knowing the difference between fantasy and reality." But the reality is, we know the difference better than probably anyone else. We have to navigate inner worlds very different from most people's, and then reconcile those with outer worlds (each society is a different one) which are usually hostile to them.
In a nutshell, therians know we can't fly. But many "normals" are afraid that we'll jump off their balconies, and treat us as though we are standing on the railing and flapping our arms, just for talking about being therian. I personally feel that this is an improvement over being tried for witchcraft and burned at the stake, but it shows that we still have a long way to go.
Where are we headed towards, though?
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Being therian, fictive, or otherkin does not mean that you act a certain way, hold a certain belief, or have the "soul" of a particular entity -- or even that you believe in souls.
There are three things which they seem to have in common.
(Content note for discussion of ablism, xenophobia, and religious supremacism, and for brief use of strong language.)
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Content note: Describes religious bigotry and homophobia.
So I was playing an RPG called Cthulhu Saves the World, where the titular squamous horror awakens only to be deprived of his powers. And now he has to go on a quest and become a "true hero," so he can get his powers back and destroy the world.
And it's funny. Not laugh-out-loud hilarious but cute. It helped distract me from the crisis I'm going through right now. Until I ran into this part in the "Hall of Heroes" where one of the characters is rattling off a list of "true heroes," and one of them is Alma the Younger.
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After I wrote that takedown of the phrase "religion sucks," in which I pointed out that "religion" and "cults of personality" are separate categories which don't completely overlap, I started seeing cultlike characteristics in a lot of the things around me. And realizing what those characteristics were.
As part of this, I had the unfortunate realization that a lot of the Ubuntu community is a cult. I'm not sure I'd say all of it is, or that you have to be a cultist to use Ubuntu. But they say that people leaving one cult often join another, and for several years around the time I became disaffected with Mormonism I was really high on Ubuntu. I try to see it more pragmatically now, but the cultlike atmosphere on Planet Ubuntu and the way they diss people who don't fit in really disgusts me. Especially with the way people are treating those who left after the recent debacle. I'm switching back to GNOME and Fedora as soon as I can muster the energy.
Anyway, I'm going to try to list some of the cult characteristics that I've noticed here, using both religious and nonreligious cults as examples.
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