Friday, March 16, 2007

A Theist asshole

Simon, an (apparently) Theist asshole (He might be a Buddhist, but they're generally not so obnoxious) comments on Atheism, Religion and Spirituality:
Nicely poetic but when one steps back and remembers that people have different definitions of the word "love", "god", "humanity" and "spirituality" itself...this post has no practical meaning.
And that makes it kind of amusing to me...that an atheist who talks of mystical mumbo jumbo would post something as equally airy and emotional, with no concrete rationality behind it.

Carl Jung, often accused of being too mystical, said in his autobiography that in all his experience, people who talk about love generally have no idea what they're talking about.

I've been reading several posts of yours and I notice you talk about suffering once in a while, but it always seems to reference something distant...a "could happen" but generally seems to happen to other people. So I ask you this: what use is this flowery writing about love-for-all to a woman who has been gangraped and must now get an abortion? What use is it to someone born into abject poverty in a socialist regime, who struggles daily with hunger and malnutrition. What good is your proclamation of universal love for all, from your comfortable home in the United States, -to these people? Why should they care about your love? You talk the talk but how much do you walk the walk?

I meet far too many people, both atheist and theist alike, who would rather pompously contemplate their navels and throw around philosophical names than actually get into the reality. While you brag about your love and compassion, other people are joining the Peace Corps or doing other things to actually SHOW their love. Ghandi and the Mother Teresa spent their lives DOING things for other people, not just pontificating.

And there is the fact that atheists have yet to show anything for themselves as amazing as Tibet...beautiful monasteries, entirely peaceful, and inhabited by monks with a serious commitment to their faith. I remember reading about a monk who immolated himself in the face of Chinese authority, to demonstrate where his loyalty stood and how absolute that was. He inflicted upon himself, a very painful death, and even sat quiet and still as his body burned, until it gave up it's life. That's the sort of thing that shows how useless and empty postmodernism is...a pretentious, ungrateful philosophy for bored, wealthy people. Bleh.

Talk is cheap. Without personal sacrifices and concrete works for the benefit of another, nothing anyone has to say about spirituality has any meaning or value. So I ask you: behind all this talk, where are your works?

I don't spend a lot time talking about myself here, but since you ask...

I adopted my sister's children when she was unable to raise them, and I spent fifteen years of my life taking care of them. I spent five of those years also taking care of my mother before she got her lung transplant.

I used to work as a rape counselor. Special circumstances, don't ask.

I rescued the woman I love from Islamic oppression, at no small personal sacrifice.

I work every Saturday for the National AIDS Marathon Training Program, which raises money for research, education and eradication.

I vote, I contribute to charity, I work and I pay taxes. I give money to panhandlers.

What I don't do is spend my Sunday mornings praying to an invisible sky fairy.

If Simon would like to set himself on fire to prove the sincerity of his convictions, I'll spring for the gasoline. Until then, he can take his sanctimonious assumptions and shove them up his ass... sideways.


  1. Delightful. You have made my day!

  2. Larry,

    It is regrettable that Simon makes the assumptions that he does. The call to action is important, but to presume that because someone is discussing postmodernism that they must therefore be rich and bored is wrong. Since I am starting a postmodernism series here, allow me to join your response to him.

    I cannot say that I live comfortably. As a gay man, I continually face the needless hatred and disgust of strangers, and have been rejected by parts of my family (initially including my parents). Gay men, lesbian women, and transgendered persons are treated harshly, and live in mortal danger in many places in this country.

    Cultivating a virtuous character is a key goal in my life, and I work towards this aim in various ways. Working for the Catholic Church, I have visited the imprisoned, the retarded, and the elderly, people who are often forgotten. As a vegan, I have sacrificed in order to preserve the life and well-being of animals. I am active with Amnesty International and the ACLU. I pray, I fast, and I repent for my sins (in the confessional).

    Truly, my contribution to building the Kingdom of God has thus far been meager and faint; I am a far cry from the glory of the saints, but I aspire to those ranks with all of my heart. I verily hope that my actions reflect that commitment.

  3. timmo,

    Also delightful. Would you consider it blasphemous if I brought up the question of whether or not there were some gay men amongst the disciples?

  4. Kipp,

    Blasphemous? Unless your intention is to somehow denounce and degrade them Ann-Coulter-style, then of course not. If one or more of the disciples was gay -- all the better!


  5. It is interesting that you make the assumption that I'm a theist and then tell me about my "sanctimonious assumptions"...when what I really did was ASK. Asking and assuming are not the same things.

    It is also interesting that you first claim to have "love for all" and then go on to flame me by calling me a theist asshole and talk about praying to invisible sky faeries. You've made numerous other derogatory remarks about people who believe in God on this blog. Is this what you call love? Who needs that love?

    The real problem here is that you're not a genuinely spiritual person at just want to be one. As an atheist, you believe, more or less, in the "what you see is what you get" model of reality. That what your five senses are detecting is the sum of reality. All genuine spirituality is based on the premise that reality is larger than our five senses detect, that there is more going on, that there is consciousness permeating the world. And it is not matter, nor energy. It is separate. Ideas about God, about afterlife, about "skyfaeries" and angels, about chi and about karma all relate to the idea of consciousness as part of existence. If you believe in this in ANY manner, then you're not really an atheist. If you're an atheist, then you're not spiritual.
    One can certainly be ethical without being spiritual, and many people claim to be spiritual, but are not ethical. But spirituality is the diametical opposite of atheism.

    You want to be spiritual so change the meaning of it. You call it love. Love is a word that many people have attached all sort of meaning to and frequently throw around carelessly. You talk about "love for all". Do you have love for Dick Cheney? For Ann Coulter? For serial rapists? You've already shown little, if any, love for me, as you suggest I set myself on fire (you would enjoy that, wouldn't you?). You have no love for an embryo. Are you sure you really do feel this love, or are you just claiming it to look good? Many people who talk about having "love for all" merely have a love for an abstract concept of humanity. Seeing the actual individuals and the choices they make, makes that a much more difficult thing, even moreso when you personally experience the consequences of their choices (like your sons dying in Iraq because of a politician's decisions). Not saying it's impossible...just that it's something most people like the idea of and want to lay claim to. Even fundies claim to "love the sinner but hate the sin" and we all know the truth behind that.

    And me? I don't believe in a creator God but I do believe there is consciousness that everyone is connected to, that it is NOT just electro-chemical impulses, something separate with physical reality but interacts with it. It shapes the material world and is shaped by the material world. I don't talk about but try to focus on acceptance. I do admit to be biased against postmodernism simply because it doesn't seem to have any practical value.

    And I give you this: I'm impressed with your list of accomplishments. I asked and you answered. Taxes, however, don't count, since that is a matter of state coercion, not willful generosity. As a libertarian, I'm sure you understand that.

  6. timmo,

    I got the feeling you would not find the inquiry blasphemous... few theists sophisticated enough to consider the monozygotic twins/traditional identity paradox seriously would be likely to have a problem with the notion. I guess my question was more about whether you have read anything substantive about this.

    I've certainly read claims that contemporary gossip at the time alluded to the disciples being gay. I was curious if your likely superior knowledge of religious sources had exposed you to anything more than that.

  7. Simon,

    I said I had love for all people... or I do my best. Some people (assholes who make unwarranted and insulting assumptions) are indeed more difficult to love than others.

    But nowhere did I say that universal love entails universal smarmyness; I'll be impolite as I see fit.

    To paraphrase Aristotle, I love all humanity, but I love the truth more.

    All genuine spirituality is based on the premise that reality is larger than our five senses detect, that there is more going on, that there is consciousness permeating the world.

    That's your definition of spirituality, and it's a frankly a stupid one, an explicit exhortation to the worst sort of magical thinking.

    [Y]ou suggest I set myself on fire (you would enjoy that, wouldn't you?)

    You were the one who brought up the profound spiritual sincerity of those who would set themselves on fire.

    Taxes, however, don't count, since that is a matter of state coercion, not willful generosity. As a libertarian, I'm sure you understand that.

    You have not read my blog at all thoroughly--and/or not at all intelligently--if you ascribe that particular stupid interpretation of "libertarianism" to my writing.

  8. I very much appreciated your reaction to these ridiculous assumptions.

    I'd like to take issue with a particular thing he said:
    And that makes it kind of amusing to me...that an atheist who talks of mystical mumbo jumbo would post something as equally airy and emotional, with no concrete rationality behind it.

    All talk of unselfish, contributing-to-the-world-positively-action aside, here is something I've wondered about often and can't for the life of me get a handle on. Why is it that people assume Atheists are cold and unfeeling just because we are reasonable and rational?

    It's astounding to me. I'm not merely angered by these various accusations, but am just downright baffled by them: Atheists apparently have no feelings, Atheists do not appreciate things that are wonderful, etc.

    Are we not human beings, and do not human beings exhibit a very wide range of emotions? How on earth does one's rationality equal one's lack of any emotion deemed nice, or, dare I say it? Fluffy? Why can't an Atheist meditate on things such as love (we can experience love, right?)? Why can't Atheists be amazed and awestruck with sweet sublimity when witness to nature?

    Sorry...I'm having a moment...when things just...aren't...making...sense...

    Oh, wait. I figured out why it's not computing. Because this person's conclusion about Atheists doesn't actually make any rational sense.

    ...and all is right with the world...

  9. Simon,

    Firstly, there is a way of asking questions so as to leave the impression of accusing or condemning them. The method you chose to ask was provocative, and sure to spark a lively response.

    Atheism is simply the view that God does not exist. To my understanding, this is what the Bum holds. If you mean something else by 'atheism', then he may or not be and atheist.

    Atheism does not exclude the possibility of profound spirituality. To be a Hindu, for example, one only needs accept the spiritual validity of the Hindu scriptures. But, interpretations of those scriptures are largely up for grabs. As it turns out, there are both theist and atheistic strands of Hinduism! Should one on those grounds contend that the atheistic Hindus are irreligious or unspiritual?

    Spirituality takes both devotional and meditative forms. Devotional spirituality is outward looking toward the glory of God, while meditative spirituality looks inward, plumbing the hidden depths of the soul. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition is primarily a devotional. The meditative form of spirituality is well exemplified by certain kinds of Buddhism. I do not mean to suggest that these categories are either exhaustive or exclusive. Indeed, the mysticism of St. John of the Cross straddles this distinction!

    With this in mind, it seems clearly possible for a physicalist to be spiritual so long as they contemplate, reflect upon, and explore the significance of his or her experience of the world and his or her existential location as an individual in it. Spirituality is a certain sensitivity to one's life and a certain kind of awareness of it.

    Does Larry have this kind of spirituality? I do not know Larry personally, so I cannot say. What I can say is that it is key not to pigeonhole people. With so many 'isms' flying around, there is a widespread tendency to do this.


    I am afraid I haven't encountered any discussion of the sexual orientation of the apostles. It is possible that one or more of them was gay, but given the prohibition on sodomy in first-century Judaism and the zeal of the apostles, it seems unlikely to me that they had romantic and sexual relationships with other men. Sometimes these things are buried in the sands of history: it is possible. Many people would be embarrassed if this were the case. I would not be, for God paints with every color of the rainbow.

  10. IsThatLatin:

    Simon is employing a common rhetorical technique of equivocation: Define spirituality in terms of superstition, show that atheists are not superstitious and therefore not spiritual, and then use the implicit definition of spiritual as emotional to then fallaciously conclude that atheists are not emotional.

    Emotions are facts; it is no more irrational to acknowledge emotions than it is to acknowledge that the world just is the way it is instead of being somehow different.

  11. If Pervy is still active at the Internet Infidels Discussion Board, he would be a good resource for discussions about Christianity and homosexuality in general.

    He participated in a terrific discussion where--in my non-scholarly opinion--he made a solid case that the Christian bible in the original never actually condemns homosexuality at all; the condemnation is an artifact of English translation.

    Many years ago, I remember reading a moderately scholarly examination of Paul's sexuality, concluding that he may well have been a repressed homosexual, but a superficial Google didn't yield any good results.


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