Saturday, September 13, 2014

Emotion, manipulation and excuse

A while back, Malcolm wrote a post about Scott Adams talking about his desire to slowly and painfully kill people opposed to legal euthanasia. The gist of it was that Adams said this hot on the heels of his father dying, without the state being allowed to step in and just plain kill him.

For a lot of people, Adams practically had the right to say what he did, for one reason: he was experiencing an apparently emotionally troubling event in his life. That's putting it mildly, even clinically, but it's true: his father had just died after suffering from a painful illness. Adams is, understandably, upset about this. He's emotional. Therefore, if Adams happens to say something horrendous, lashing out and blaming who he perceives (even wrongly) to have had a hand in his father's suffering... well, don't hold it against him.

Because he's feeling very emotional right now.

I can understand the motivations behind that kind of reply. To a degree, I even agree with them. No, I don't think it's a good idea to talk about estate taxes with a widow right before she walks into or out of the funeral. No, I don't think it's reasonable to push the guy who just lost three of his children in a car accident about when he's going to have the TTP reports done because the deadline is in two days. Multiply the examples if you like.

The problem is that what seems like a pretty normal, well-adjusted attitude to have towards people is quickly, and easily, regarded as yet one more rhetorical vantage point to work from, both on the personal level and on the large scale.

We saw some of this in the recent Ferguson shooting (didn't that one fade quickly), where you had marches and riots, complete with everyone repeatedly re-enacting the supposed versions of the incident over and over and over in front of cameras. But when footage of Michael Brown robbing a store 15 minutes before the shooting is released, well, that's a horrible thing that should not be done because it will only inflame the community. It's character assassination. Saying that the cop who shot Brown did so in cold blood due to being racist? Not character assassination, apparently. Maybe it's the good kind of character assassination?

The key here is this: the appeal was based on emotion. 'Don't release that evidence: the mother isn't done grieving!' 'Don't release this evidence: the mob will be angry!' In the latter case, the appeal was partly a threat: some people are so emotional that if you bring up evidence they dislike, they will riot and loot stores and possibly kill or at least beat some people.

I suspect a good number of people, if not exactly encouraging of this state of affairs, at least tolerate it. Few people ever talk about the responsibility for a person to control their emotions. Fewer still suggest that people unable to control their emotions, even in situations where most other people seem entirely capable of it, may well be defective. "Oh, they're just an emotional person."

That needs to end.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Theism, Sans Emotion

One of the things that puts me apart from other theists is the following: emotion plays very little role in my theistic commitments.

I've never been overcome with the presence of the Holy Spirit to the point where it's made my heart leap and realize I had a personal connection with Christ. I've never looked at a waterfall and found it so beautiful that the only way to explain it could be an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient God. I didn't watch 9/11 live on TV and break down in tears at the thought of how Our Creator must be weeping right now.

Likewise, I never looked in the bible at any act of God - from what Job went through, to the slaughter of this or that people - and found myself having intense internal worry over how any God could do such a thing, thus leading me to find excuses about how that not only absolutely never happened, but never COULD happen. Nor do I rule out the possibility of God doing or commanding some vicious things, from the get-go. Some things I don't believe God would do, given certain commitments and understandings (Classical theism and God lying, etc). But even there, reason and reflection is largely in the driver's seat. Likewise for hypotheticals about God commanding things I am on record as disagreeing strongly with, from abortion to otherwise.

What used to trip me up were intellectual concerns. The Problem of Evil, for me, always was not just first and foremost but entirely an intellectual issue - 'How to square this with God's goodness, etc'. Not emotional - 'How could a loving God ever permit such a thing it's so horrible, all that blood and violence and..!' If I ever reasoned like that, it's lost from memory for me - and I think that's a good thing.

Part of my theistic commitment is realizing that I don't get to pick the God or gods that exist. I can pick what I think is most reasonable, what is most likely, but I recognize I can make mistakes. I likewise recognize that my emotional distaste for this or that act isn't what gives me license to deny it's possible, or even likely. For that, I need an argument.

I say this because too many times - from atheists and theists both - I've seen claims like, 'If God did/commanded X then God is a monster/Calvinism is true and that's horrible/etc', as if that's supposed to, in and of itself, convince me or make me ward off a conclusion, or remove a particular possibility from the set of possibilities. It doesn't.

Because it shouldn't.

(* Yes, I know Allah and God are the same person according to most understandings, my own included. I'm just making a point.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Protection Racket Christianity

Whenever I read about a progressive Christian warning conservative Christians about how their teachings are causing people to leave the Church, I take careful stock of the situation. Even when the teachings in question are ones I think are wrong or I disagree with, I cannot help but notice that many times they happen to be issues that the progressive is in all other situations gleefully condemning and encouraging people to abandon the Church over.

It's not unlike a mob enforcer talking about what a pity it is that your store keeps catching fire, and a smarter fellow would buy some insurance from his buddy.

Sympathy for an atheist

As the Cult of Gnu's leadership has now decided flat out spirituality - aka, religion - is acceptable, even laudable, I admit to taking some amusement over the order of the mere footsoldier cultist.

To go from spending years bashing religion and religious practice... to now watching your leadership about-face and endorse meditation, New Age yammerings, mystical drug-laden 'spiritual' experiences - and realizing you're going to have to defend all this in order to remain consistent? Or, lacking that, agree with all the theists you'd been attacking over the years for daring to ridicule your idols?

Not a pleasant time for the Cultist of Gnu.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The biggest problem with Intelligent Design...

..Is their internet presence.

Seriously, how is it that there's such a big gap between Michael Behe and the sort of people who approvingly quote Michael Behe? I don't see this sort of shit with William Lane Craig, and Craig's arguments are actually subtler.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Can a catholic oppose marriage?

A hypothetical thought.

Man X and woman Y have plans to be married. Obviously, they're in a sexual relationship.

They have no plans of having any children, despite both being capable of having children.

Is it acceptable to advise them not to be married, regardless of their sexual relationship?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Strawman Dialogues: LGBT Drama Edition

A: There you are! What are you doing on the balcony all by yourself? There's a party going on!
B: Hey. Just thinking, really.
A: Uh-oh. I know that look. You're not just thinking, you're -moping-.
B: A bit of both, I suppose.
A: Fine, then. What about?
B: Oh, just... thinking about how funny it all is.
A: How funny what is?
B: Everything. This party, for starters.
A: What's so funny about it? We're celebrating...
B: ..yet another state having judges legalize gay marriage.
A: That's right. That's GREAT news! The country has never been more accepting of gay, lesbian, trans..
B: Yeah, yeah...
A: It's true!
B: ... What does the world think of us?
A: What? That we're gay?
B: Yeah, and?
A: ...That we're... good... decorators?
B: They think we're delicate guys who want to settle down in monogamous bliss and live.. I don't know.. like Ward and June Cleaver, just we're both Ward.
A: So what are you...
B: ..With turtlenecks, lose the tobacco.. Probably adopting some asian boy instead of..
A: Whatever. So what are you saying?
B: How many cocks did you suck last week?
A: ...What does that have to do w...
B: Because I fucked five guys.
A: Well, it was another party.
B: Right. You?
A: I don't know.. three?
B: Oh, slow week?
A: Shut up. What's your point?
B: *laughing* That the country.. no, the whole world.. is celebrating and supporting an image of gay men that's largely fucking fake.
A: It is not, there's...
B: Exceptions. Like there are to any rule. You know better. You know who we know, you know the statistics.
A: But they don't talk about that side of things.
B: Oh, you mean we're safely in the closet? Well thank heavens for that...
A: Ugh, I... ... What about about lesbians?
B: Man, we're already retreating to that one?
A: Well?
B: Which ones are we talking about? The 75% who are obese, or the ones who eventually develop a taste for dick at rates that could have made Exodus International look successful if they took credit for it?
A: Fine! So there's a gulf between the image and the reality. It's still successful!
B: I'm not questioning the success. We're cheering on acceptance, and we aren't even accepted.
A: Well, give it time! The world is becoming more open to..
B: ...and I'm not sure I want us to be.
A: What?
B: You heard me. I don't know if I even want what acceptance would really mean. You know what I want? The freedom to do what I want without being beaten up. But who convinced me I needed safety in a spotlight? When did that become the brass ring?
A: I can't believe you're saying this.
B: Why?
A: Because it's self-hatred!
B: Or maybe it's self-honesty. Or self-doubt. Or even a little bit of wanting a taboo to remain taboo for the sake of breaking it. Maybe it's a lot of things. But most of all... maybe we're wrong. Maybe we're making mistakes. Maybe we need freedom as much as we need a culture that encourages us to be better. Maybe we're helping drag the world down, not lifting it up.
A: This is revolting. It's betrayal, it's sacrificing everything the LGBT community has worked so hard to...
B: Oh, public sanctification of ass to mouth. The victories I'm doubting...
A: You know what? Go to hell. Stay out here and be morose. I'm going back to the party. If you really think that way, maybe you should reconsider even coming to these things anymore!
B: ...Heh, the first sensible thing he's said in a while, and he was being sarcastic...