Trigger warning for frank discussion of bullying and PTSD.
When I was young, I was bullied. A lot. Maybe not more than other kids who’ve been bullied, but I was definitely the target of my grade for many years running in my tiny grade school and middle school. It started to let up a bit in high school after I attacked one of my bullies physically. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but I had been at my wits’ end that there were exactly zero consequences for harassing me for years on end.
There are certain behaviours and certain tropes that I find myself hard-pressed to defend or accept in people I call friends and allies, and I will call them out on these behaviours in hopes of either swaying them to my position, or of exposing the irrationalities behind our differences. I have attempted to teach myself to look for and to compensate for the Halo Effect, where you unintentionally give extra leeway to someone who’s done something else you agree with. That doesn’t mean being especially harsh with them — it means being consistent with your values and where your lines are drawn.
And yet I am, to borrow a phrase from JT Eberhard, more than willing to employ toilet paper in a divisive manner. We divide ourselves from the religious and call ourselves atheists instead of theists or “agnostic” in order to play nice with theists. I am willing to cleave whole communities in twain to divide from people whose core values are so diametrically opposed to my own. I have heard their arguments and found them wanting — and in the same way that we divide ourselves from the religious, with whom the fundamental difference is our belief in deities, I will divide from the people with whom I have irreconcileable political differences.
If atheism WAS enough to bind us, if it was a sufficient foundation for our communities, there would be no great rift. There would be no polarization, no in-fighting. There would be no great sorting. People wouldn’t be so willing to throw down the gauntlet over simple advice like “guys, don’t do that”, taking a commonplace anecdote as a personal insult and escalating beyond all reason. There would be no screeds about “feminazis”, there would be no recriminations and accusations leveled without evidence about who’s responsible for downturns in conference attendance. There would be no need to hold people’s feet to the fire over breaches of moral precepts if mere atheism was enough to sustain and build a movement.
But atheism itself implies, as the angrier atheists so vehemently insist, absolutely nothing else about a person outside of their lack of belief in a deity. Nothing, that is, except the consequences of that belief with regard to morality. Continue reading “Atheism is not enough (pt. 2)”→
I keep chewing this thought over in my head, this one nagging meme that got planted there by way of innumerable trolls during innumerable battles in my tenure on the blogosphere. It’s been percolating in my brainpan at least since the inception of the label “Atheism Plus” and the community that coalesced around it. Longer than that, in fact. Playing over and over, like a drum beat.
That thought is, atheism is not enough.
It is good, important, even vital to become an atheist; to free yourself from the intellectual and in some cases physical impediments that religion imposes. But that should be the beginning of a journey into freethinking, not the end of it. Without a god or gods, you have no moral lawgiver, so you have to build your own morality.
Look. This is going to be a mushy post. About a cat. If you don’t like it, don’t read it, and especially don’t comment. I’m not particularly interested in your disapproval right now.
About eight years ago, I was living in Toronto in the basement of the mother of my boss. My roommate at the time had a cat, Casey, a big bruiser of a tom, but rescued another — a kitten she found at a shelter, who as it turns out was the runt of her litter. Continue reading “My cat Molly”→
Air Canada, I have to say, has some snazzy planes. I have a live map of where I am in the flight, how long it will be til I get there, and to feed my OCD and need for more information than is actually necessary for any normal traveller, exactly how fast I’m travelling and at what altitude. All on an LCD panel that’s built into the seat in front of me. 1h 46 mins, touchdown at 10:02 am local Toronto time. This is definitely information overkill. Continue reading “Thoughts from on a plane travelling 504km/h”→
While I’ve spent other work vacations claiming to put the blog in low power mode, but still managing to keep blogging at my usual rate, there’s a good possibility that for the next two weeks my blogging activities will be significantly curtailed by all the preparation and socializing that accompanies attending CONvergence.
I am very likely presently in the air on my way to Minnesota right now, assuming nothing untoward has happened (planes delayed, pilots being Raptured away mid-flight, etc). I might have a thing or two to write while I’m in the air, but I also plan to try to finally read the beta copy of Kelly McCullough’s new book so I can tell him in person what I thought of it. Yeah, the harassment fight has been keeping me from other duties. I suspect he wouldn’t mind though, considering the nature of this all-consuming conflagration, and the frequency with which he attends conventions.
I will, as usual, attempt to keep some interesting stuff pumping into my blog, but the chances of hosting a knock-down-drag-out fight over some piece of my personal philosophy is significantly lower as a result of all the time I plan on spending catching up with friends and making new ones.
Once in Minnesota, I understand I have more beers to try. I didn’t quite get through all the beers on offer last time there. I should post my notes on the last set, so I clear my “beers I’ve tried and haven’t yet blogged about” queue. I’ll also probably rely pretty heavily on working my way through some of the blog fodder backlog from links people have been sending me. But all that aside, it’s well possible I may not pay as close attention to the blogosphere as I have recently. If you need me for something, those of you who really matter already know how to get a hold of me.
And if anyone needs to pass along hugs to Stephanie Zvan, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.
One of the main complaints we’ve seen recently about our ongoing conversation with regard to sexism in the skeptical and atheist communities, is one about mission creep — that we’re a community defined by our common ground, e.g. atheism/skepticism, and we shouldn’t try to hash out other differences about other things.
Sometimes the bullies wear at a person’s resolve enough so that one little weird and probably innocuous incident from an unrelated source is enough to rattle that person. Enough to change the calculus used to determine whether something is worth doing, such that suddenly something that they were gung-ho to do (like Ophelia Benson speaking at TAM) becomes a headache just not worth undertaking. Continue reading “Bullying the bullies into stopping bullying”→
I’ve been an atheist since I was 13. This is well before I knew the word, or the implications, though I had a vague inkling that a lot of people were probably wrong about a lot of things. When I further realized that my own parents counted among those people, I figured it was a very bad idea to let anyone else know what I thought about theology.
Several years ago, my sister came out to me as gay. The way she approached it was to ask me, “what is the worst possible thing you could imagine me telling you about myself?” I joked, “that you vote Conservative.” So, she apparently took that as an indicator that I’m safe, and came out of the closet.