nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
Here is a link to the controversial blog entry by obscure science fiction author John C. Wright. The conversation surrounding his remarks will only involve talking past each other, until we see it as an argument over the three moral dimensions unique to social conservatives: purity, obedience, and loyalty. His hostility will only make sense in that light. By contrast, social liberals have two moral values: fairness/reciprocity, and avoidance of harm. Conservative moral intuitions share those two dimensions, but subordinate them to the other three.

The odd thing is, the more dimensions to an author's morality, the more cardboard the characters and settings are likely to be. Liberals have been around the block enough that they have seen loyalty, obedience, and purity prop up organizational heirarchies that create harm and inhibit reciprocity. A commitment to harm-avoidance and a level playing field must precede all other values. Otherwise loyalty is nepotism and cronyism; obedience is a jack-booted thug; and purity is obsessive-compulsive disorder. In short, they are all forms of corrupted governance, hoarding worldly power through self-serving double-standards. There are countless ways for us to appeal to the two values we share with conservatives. Countless examples to illustrate how they cannot honor both sets of their values because one set sabotages the other. Spend the time doing that.

And by the way: yes, it is our job to educate them. Do you like it when they tell you to change and then say that the reasons are beyond our understanding, so they don't have to support it? Pretty obnoxious, isn't it? With that attitude, there is no way to ever find out that you're living under the wrong rules. Well, I've seen liberals do that, and it's no better. Never tell someone to change and then say "It's not my job to educate you". Any time anyone asks anyone else to change, the burden of proof is on them that the change is for the better. Skepticism is healthy, never forget that. It is our job to back up our claims as to why loyalty, obedience and purity can be taken to destructive extremes. Otherwise we ask them to obey our inscrutable demands through blind faith. Quit it, please. We have the facts on our side, and may as well use them.

In the meantime, a point about this boycott on Mr. Wright's obscure books. Were you going to read them anyway? Don't get me wrong, there are some extremely good stories written by authors who you could look up in your Monster Manual under "Dire Amish". But I'm comfortable missing out on throwback work with a shallow understanding of the world. My reading pile is too full already, and the competition too fierce, to shed much of a tear. Most of us are less concerned with the quality of writing than we are about the issues that literature addresses: science, business, religion, politics, philosophy. Authors can get obsessed with writing skills. It's their job, that's understandable. But when we read the last page and close your book, we readers continue to exist! And then we do those other things, which we usually care about more.

I would bet that the saving grace for Orson Scott Card's career was that he was already famous for his literary work before starting to write ultra-fundamentalist newspaper opinion columns. Whereas the recent kerfuffle surrounding Mr. Wright has probably garnered more attention than most of his novels, and is likely the height of his fame. Few are likely to explore the work of an author if their first and only exposure has been to find out he hates their friends and family on blind faith. There are just too many equally good authors and good books to direct our scarce exploratory reading in that direction.

I don't expect Mr. Wright to stop saying what he thinks just because I am no longer interested in his books. His stories would not somehow become richer if he stopped slandering and put in some characters who he doesn't understand at all. Let's not make this a boycott. I don't intend it as a disincentive-- just a helpful new way to winnow down information overload. It takes a really good reason for me to pick up a new author, and any excuse will do to avoid one. Look at the supply and demand ratio. The audience for fiction is what these days? Twelve people? Thirteen? (I kid, but you get the point.) And how many really high-quality novels and short story collections have accumulated? Several human lifetimes' worth. As Cory Doctorow says, writing is almost a non-economic activity now. A hobby. Which kind of author do we want to be among the few for whom it is an economical profession? Screeching red-eyed lecturers, or warm, genial sweethearts?
I mentioned this essay on The Sci Phi Show and said that I'd put it back at the top of the site when the episode aired so the listeners could see the illustration, so here it is.

Imagine if transportation was defined as a device that uses horses or sails-- automobile drivers would be accused of denying the existence of transportation.

We're genetically programmed to see an Alpha Male in our primate pack as the source of truth and moral law. This explains the difficulty I have in communicating alternative models of truth and moral law to bible believers. It's not that they reject the model I present, it's that they literally don't know what I'm saying. It's a mental block. We take away the concept of the Alpha Male Monkey in the sky, and they think we've declared truth and morality to be nonexistent, because to them, "right" is defined as: "whatever the Alpha Male Monkey says." By definition. I put the discussion behind this link ...with drawings. ) Morality doesn't look like this:

It looks like this:
Read more... )

Mr. Toll

Dec. 8th, 2006 04:56 pm
The very best years of my education were the last two years of high school-- the years in public education. In particular, an astronomy teacher named Mr. Toll made a significant difference for the better, on my life and on who I am as a person.

I spent my Junior and Senior years at Roseville High because my parents could no longer afford religious private schooling for all of their children. Rather than put me back into home-schooling, they allowed me, their eldest, to complete my education in the public school system. Perhaps it was financial desperation, or perhaps it was in the hopes that the church brainwashing had sufficiently set in to resist the exposure to other influences. It had set in enough that I went on from Roseville High to attend an insane cult compound named Pensacola Christian College, but two years at Roseville High were a crucial break in the program of church-run education which carefully conditions the perceptions and world-view of students to be mindless Christian soldiers.

During that break, my mind was expanded and I was exposed to better role models. (By the way, the excellent science fiction in the Roseville High School library didn't hurt either when it came to expanding my mind.)

I was shocked, at first, when Mr. Toll admitted with no shame that he was a member of CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal. Yet despite this, to me he clearly wasn't a bad person. To the contrary, when compared to members of the church, his motivations were more honest, his vision of the universe and our evolutionary place in it was more beautiful, his friendship with students was more inclusive, his hope for this life (rather than the afterlife) was more inspiring.

By demonstrating a passionate interest in finding a happy and moral place in the universe as it truly is, he served as a role model it make it seem like a viable alternative for me to give up insisting by faith that the cosmos is as we wish it to be. The seeds which Mr. Toll planted of scientific honesty, and of a humanism which I can only clumsily term "anti-misanthropy", took several years to finish bearing fruit. Nevertheless I could never quite fit in religious fundamentalism after I took his astronomy class, and through many subsequent influences and experiences eventually became a well-adjusted and happy secularist.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
My brother Andy got "shipped" from Pensacola Christian College. This is the term PCC students use for expulsion. Before I knew the details, I expected he just accumulated too many demerits for tiny infractions. I certainly accumulated a lot of them when I was there. For instance, having a clean room and your bed made when the floor-leader comes in to check in the morning. (The floor leader is a student whose job is to supervise the students on his or her hall.) I typically would get 5 demerits for not emptying my trash during morning check; another five for hair too long when they lined us up against the wall once a month for the dorm supervisor to inspect us; another five for being late to a class; another five for being caught out of bed or with a light on after 11 PM. More rules are listed here and here, but there are countless unwritten ones.

There are stages to the penalties. For 75 demerits in a semester, you get "campused." It means you can't leave campus for two weeks, and you're not allowed to speak to any other campused student during that period.

If you get 150 demerits in a semester, you are "shadowed", which means a floor leader is assigned to follow you everywhere and make sure you don't speak to any student, while they go through the process of expelling you. The term "shipped" is used for being expelled. Shipped students sometimes report gestapo-like intimidation tactics pressuring them into signing a lot of damaging paperwork without consulting a lawyer. A shipped student is abruptly dumped on the next flight home with a suitcase, and the rest of their belongings are literally shipped after them. Expelled students always have to sit out the rest of the semester and the one following, but after that, re-applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.

He got shipped for the dumbest thing. This requires some setup to explain. There is a men's sports field and a women's sports field. But the thing is, the men's sports field is on the other side of a little 2-lane road, Rawson Lane. My brother's friend Jeremy was playing sports on the Men's field and his girlfriend wanted to watch the game. Andy drove her there in his car. The road goes through school property but is defined as not on campus. When they drove across the road, they were for a moment "off campus" before they got back "on campus" on the other side of the road. Women are not supposed to go to the Men's Field at all except during a chaperoned sports event (and not all are chaperoned). Being with a student of the opposite sex off campus is always automatic expulsion.

That site is nearby where Rachel and I got "socialed" for talking on her way to work past my dorm when we were students there; but we were inside the fence, so we weren't expelled. Security caught us on the surveillance cameras. Speaking to a member of the opposite sex in an area without a chaperone results in being "socialed": we were not allowed to speak to any students of the opposite sex for two weeks.

Since you all share my opinion that my alma mater Pensacola Christian College (home of the famous "making eye babies" and "optical intercourse") is creepy and demented, I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you that I'm glad my brother is out of there, hopefully this time forever. He might be upset at the loss of all the money he's given the college, but it was wasted money for an unaccredited pre-med degree. I'll encourage him to apply to Macomb Community College or Oakland University.
The phrase "the Alpha Male Monkey" may be the most useful new explanatory tool I've encountered in years. [ profile] paranthropus gave it to me in a recent LJ post about primate group psychology. It was an inspirational and motivational insight into the evolutionary biology of my psychology which has kept me up at night thinking of the implications. I wrote about it in this subsequent LJ post, but it occurred to me that this is valuable for explaining myself to bible-believing Christians.

We're genetically programmed to see an Alpha Male in our primate pack as the source of truth and moral law. This explains the difficulty I have in communicating alternative models of truth and moral law to bible believers. It's not that they reject the model I present, it's that they literally don't know what I'm saying. It's a mental block. We take away the concept of the Alpha Male Monkey in the sky, and they think we've declared truth and morality to be nonexistent, because to them, "right" is defined as: "whatever the Alpha Male Monkey says." By definition. I put the discussion behind this link ...with drawings. ) Morality doesn't look like this:

It looks like this:
Read more... )
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
"Memo May Have Swayed Plan B Ruling in

One of the silver linings of an administration's dependence on the loudest minority of zealots in its religious base is that they're so loud they open their mouths and insert their feet, as Pat Robertson recently did when he warned Dover PA that God might smite them for voting out the anti-evolutionists on the school board.

A conservative doctor gave a sermon at his church about how his memo to the FDA prevented the availability of a contraceptive. Of course churches tape their sermons because they're in the business of getting their message out. So now this videotape is giving credence to the claims of the contraceptive's supporters that the FDA's rejection of the contraceptive ignored scientific evidence in order to make social decisions for Americans about their private lives. Decide for yourself from his sermon:

"I argued from a scientific perspective, and God took that information, and he used it through this minority report to influence the decision," Hager said. "Once again, what Satan meant for evil, God turned into good."
Hager has been a highly controversial figure because of his strong views against abortion and emergency contraception and in favor of abstinence education. In his October sermon, he said that Christians such as himself were at "war" with people who would take faith and values out of medical care.

Does he mean the FDA should reject the contraceptive because Satan meant it for evil? Or does he mean that Satan meant the scientific evidence for evil but God turned it into good? Of course when a person who says that goes on to say he has a "scientific perspective" he means that the evidence he sees happens to go along with what he would still go on believing even if the evidence contradicted it.Read more... )
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
And so concludes another discussion, this time with someone who says he is "completely objective now as faer [sic] as is humanly possible". According to him, the way to become objective is to stop hardening your heart against Christ, and instead harden your heart against anything other than Christ. I particularly love how he prefaces a statement by saying "LOGIC:" Isn't that cute?

On the one hand he is proud of his higher education and expects me to take his word for it because of this; and on the other hand he simultaneously considers universities to be in the business of deceiving people. He is really impressed with pseudoscientist Creationists who have not published any papers through peer-reviewed journals. In those rare moments where he stops telling me what my motives are and attempts to put together an argument, this is the main thrust. He eventually concludes our exchange with a frustrated series of insults couched in love and friendship. He specifically denies that I got to him, but obviously I did. Poor guy.

Not trusting e-mail alone to keep my records, I am archiving it here even though it will be of limited interest to you. I am also removing the name of my correspondent.
Read more... )
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
The SF author Orson Scott Card posted an essay to a Mormon website about why Mormonism is incompatible with being openly homosexual.

This may come as a surprise to him, but the argument on which Mr. Card bases his entire essay actually is ethical relativity. Let us take an example. Either raping a woman is wrong because of the suffering of the victim, or it is wrong just because god happened to arbitrarily roll some dice and decree it. Mr. Card is among the type who would say the latter. "Against thee and thee only have I sinned," wrote the Psalmist David addressing god. In other words the suffering of the victim is inconsequential. This is a form of ethical relativism. If wrong is only wrong because of the preferences of a deity, then that preference is arbitrary whim because there is no standard higher than god for a god to judge itself against. If instead, Mr. Card believes that god observes behavior and then conforms his own laws to the evidence based on the suffering of the victims, then he is holding his decisions to an exterior standard and is therefore not god. "Arbitrary" means "held to no exterior standard."

Mr. Card thinks god's will is loving, pure, just and good. This statement can have no meaning in a theistic framework, because what standard is he using to let himself stand as judge and jury over god to say that? Is god's will the standard against which god's will is measured? Then we have said nothing about god's goodness, but only that god's will is god's will. That becomes the arbitrary definition of "good." Then it's only immutable in the sense that it immutably defines morality by its whim from moment to moment. Every time it arbitrarily changes its mind, that change becomes the new definition of morality. If it stays the same forever, so what? It is held to one arbitrary roll of the dice, forever.

The Christian or LDS rules-based moral system cannot accomplish the objectivity which they claim they want from a moral system.

This is because it confuses mere rules with moral truths, and bases morality on a set of rules instead of the other way around. Objective moral truths do not change just because an authority changes a rule-- not even god. If Mr. Card believes they do, then he is a moral relativist, except even worse, because he extends it to a cosmic scale. Only rules are man-made or God-made. Objective morality, on the other hand, cannot be man-made or God-made, it's not made by anybody. 2 + 2 = 4 doesn't need to be decreed by royal fiat. Neither does the fact that unprovoked harm of another person is biased towards you and against them. Theism makes it impossible for moral truths to be objectively real. If there is a god, then, and only then, is morality subjective and relativistic.

However, Mr. Card is right about one thing:

"Those who are not willing or able to obey the rules should honestly admit the fact and withdraw from membership. ...the LDS church, which is founded on the idea that the word of God as revealed through his prophets should determine the behavior of the Saints, is under no obligation to protect some supposed "right" of those members who would like to persuade us that neither God nor the prophets has the authority to regulate them."

I would not stop to urinate on Mr. Card's supposed god and prophets if they were on fire. This is not specifically because I disagree with them on an issue, such as homosexuality, which is just one of many problematic issues with religion. It's because of authoritarianism. Just as we can't learn to do arithmetic by always looking it up on a chart, and refusing to countenance the idea that the chart is wrong -- so too we can't practice ethical reasoning by looking it up in a so-called holy book. Therefore there is nothing so evil in the holy books as the claim that we should unquestioningly get our rules for living from them, rather than from personal reason and observation. The specific errors such as the prohibition on harmless sexual quirks would be easily repaired if it weren't for their Stalinesque attitude toward authority.

Nevertheless, I can't help but agree with Mr. Card that there are no gay Mormons by definition. To claim that his view represents a mere misunderstanding of the book of Mormon, and that the book actually does not prohibit homosexuality, is as absurd as saying that chairman Mao really was a capitalist if you read between the lines, and therefore a capitalist can legitimately claim to be a Maoist.

It's time to draw the line in the sand and step firmly across to the ethical side. The Church of Latter-Day Saints, along with other scripture-following authoritarian religions, have abandoned their responsibilities to individually observe the data of lived experience with a mind to personally weigh the costs and benefits of behaviors.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
While examining human motivation at ConVocation, which I blogged about this weekend, I turned the microscope on my own views of the world, religious, relational, and political. The techno-progressive Dale Carrico, with whom I had what might count as my first political debate last week over the connection between technology and libertarianism, sparked some thought on broader connections.

I can talk your ear off about secularism but I'm not very political. When I'm asked in a poll or a voting booth to think about broad social policies, I just extrapolate from personal relationships. I used to be a very compliant and trusting child, a dutiful husband, and a devout follower of Jesus of Nazareth. Those arrangements were all bad and I'll never again get into relationships of parent/child, till-death-do-us-part, or worshiper/worshipee. I have no policy statistics, I've never paid much attention to laws and their outcomes, I don't claim to be an expert in society or governance, so I cannot be looked to for anything more specific on politics than a treatise of first principles. I merely have life experiences that teach me hyper-individualism, which manifests as suspicion of all authority and an aversion to entitlement. By entitlement, I mean home, family, church, government, and other communal relationships in which people basically feel like they can have free run to abuse each other and praise it as "self-sacrifice." So when I found libertarianism and technological culture, they fit like a hand in a glove. God, marriage, parents, government, nature, it's all of a piece. Technology attempts to break the wheel of nature, that we are in relationship with, and which governs us.

I wonder if left-liberals and moral-majority-conservatives have more trust, or are comfortable in interdependent relationships, whether it be with their parents or spouse or religion or children, or their DNA for that matter, which carries over to government. In the "perfect idealistic world" of my imagination there would be none of those. But I acknowledge a world of all adults, a world of artificial intelligences who can just self-modify whenever they don't like their own nature, is not where we are right now, and I have no good reason to expect it to become that way.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
Cory Doctorow asked to present a panel at Penguicon about "The Hidden Totalitarian Assumptions of I, Robot." I've been curious ever since he told me this.

Now it turns out he's published a new story about it on the Infinite Matrix website titled I, Robot. After the story he writes, "Last spring, in the wake of Ray Bradbury pitching a tantrum over Michael Moore appropriating the title of 'Fahrenheit 451' to make Fahrenheit 9/11, I conceived of a plan to write a series of stories with the same titles as famous sf shorts, which would pick apart the toalitarian assumptions underpinning some of sf's classic narratives."

It's an excellent story but I still don't get the point. The money quote is probably this from a Eurasian missionary/secret agent to a Canadian cop: "You live in a country where it is illegal to express certain mathematics in software, where state apparatchiks regulate all innovation, where inconvenient science is criminalized, where whole avenues of experimentation and research are shut down in the service of a half-baked superstition about the moral qualities of your three laws, and you call my home corrupt?" But as far as I can tell, some characters decided to be totalitarian dictators, and other characters in their society allowed them to be, for reasons which I can only dimly connect to the three laws or to Asimov's book, probably because it's been years since I read it. (The movie, which was a script called Hard Wired until they slapped the I, Robot name on it for no good reason, doesn't count.) Why don't the Eurasian robots, who are not "3 Laws Safe," run amok and take over the world? The story does not say. In asking that question, am I making one of the totalitarian assumptions of I, Robot?

A few months ago I bought it the e-book from, but from this LJ entry you might recall how Digital Rights Management screwed me out of my property. I don't know if I'd call that totalitarian though.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
My brother goes back to Pensacola Concentration Camp tomorrow. Because my responsibilities to two conventions happened to overwhelm me the past few weeks, I've hardly seen him during his Christmas break. I just got an e-mail asking if I can still bring over Monty Python and the Holy Grail and watch it with him tonight as I had suggested two weeks ago. Can words describe the many different feelings that this e-mail rouses in me?
Love. Andy is one of My People. He is like me and his life is following the same path. He is not like our parents or their church. He does not belong at PCC. I love him. I musn't cry at work...
Rage. He wants to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail with me on the eve of descending into the maw of the youth-stifling machine. It's like a last meal. This poetic contrast evokes rage at PCC, that another closet proto-fan is smothering in it as I did. I musn't cry at work...
Grief. It is with despondency almost to the point of grieving that I have decided to eat as short a dinner as possible with the Concom and GoHs, transfer the publications to someone, and skip the gathering afterward. I loved the Thursday night before ConFusion so much last year. I met and chatted with Robert Sawyer about handheld computers and I didn't even know who I was talking to. I sat with Eric Raymond and Bruce Sterling listening to them banter. If you know those two, ponder that concept in your mind. It was an unforgettable night and the highlight of the convention. My place is with someone else tonight. I musn't cry at work...
Lately I've been taking my discontent with America's religious climate and hitching it to the wagon of the recent election in the hopes of waking up politically-motivated people to become motivated about religion, so that they can work on the disease and not the symptoms. Now, however, there is a backlash, because there are two kinds of Christians.

First there are the majority of Christians, among whom are many of my good and worthy friends, who pray a lot, and claim to follow some vague idea of "Jesus" which they possibly got from a painting of a robed fellow with long hair holding a baby sheep. If a person claims to follow Jesus, and Jesus transforms into whatever their idea of goodness happens to be, is such a person "following" in any meaningful sense? They follow themselves. I'm glad they do so, but if I were to refer to this as Christianity, words would become meaningless noises.

Second are the ones who actually read and follow the Christian scriptures, such as the American Family Association and Bob Jones University and the Concerned Women of America and other politically active Christian Supremacist groups, and the huge grassroots of congregations who they motivate with press releases, sermons, and letters so extreme they actually deserve phrases like "American Mullahs." I know that they are following the actual book, because because I grew up reading, believing and obeying it until several years ago.

I and other informed secularists then apply phrases like "American Mullahs" to those who read, believe and obey the literal bible, including all the cancerous Christian Supremacism found within. Then liberal/nominal Christians, utterly ignorant of what is actually in their own religion's teachings except for a few warm huggy sound bites like: "love thy neighbor," and silly self-contradictory nonsense like: "judge not lest ye be judged," call us intolerant for criticizing faith. What's worst is that even non-religious liberals join them in this. The cultural attitude at the root of so many problems is unchanged as a sacred cow, and from there proceeds business as usual in America.

The reason this happens is that there exists fashionable nonsense among liberals and progressives that there is no such thing as a right or wrong truth claim if somebody slaps the label of faith on it. This is found nowhere in the Christian bible, which only uses the "get away with faith free card" to exempt itself at the expense of everyone else. Then they make the claim that opposition to faith is also faith, because there exists no evidence one way or another for paradoxical mysteries, which is

This claim that every stance is a retreat to faith is called irrationalism. At least the postmodernist irrationalists differ from the absolutist irrationalists, in that there is no winner or loser. However, they seem to oppose Christian or Islamic political supremacism not because they present truth claims about religion that are wrong, but because they present any at all. This is self-defeating because everyone will ultimately present truth claims anyway regardless of our pretenses otherwise. For instance, if you claim everything is just faith, than you are giving me a pass to say by faith that you're wrong. You can't do diddly squat about it unless you're willing to say that one faith is better than another and I should stop having mine. Which undercuts your ability to say I can't tell you to stop having yours.

Of course I'm just playing along with the idea that not having faith is the same as having it. Naturally there is a difference. I act like these issues can be resolved not through authority, but through reason based on observation, and irrationalists (religious and non-religious alike) insist they have to be faith-based pre-suppositions immune from challenge. There is something on which I agree with the absolutist bible-believers: that there is truth. We just disagree on whether we can personally know it with absolute certainty. There is something with which post-modern irrationalists agree with the absolutist bible-believers: that we can't know anything without retreating to a pre-supposition. But I say that hope lies only in the discovery that we can.

True tolerance and fairness under the first amendment means a level playing field in which the claims can be judged against each other, without favoritism. This competition is meant to be fair, but like any competition there is a winner and a loser! Claims are accepted and rejected! But inevitably whoever believes that there exists a knowable reality, and takes sides accordingly, is made out to be the bad guy.
I grew up listening to the Focus on the Family radio program, and continued listening several years into adulthood. Both there, and in the church I attended in Warren, Michigan, and at Pensacola Christian College, I was exposed to Christian Supremacism. Phrases like "taking back America for God" or "putting King Jesus back on the throne" were commonplace. This is an interpretation of religious freedom identical to that of Islamic Supremacists. The shared idea of these movements is that since their nations have traditions from one particular religion, "freedom of religion" means that other religions are free to practice in privacy as tolerated guests. In this interpretation, the public sphere is a place on which a majority religion can plant a flag as the sole basis for legitimate authority, as Judge Moore did in Alabama.

Christian Supremacists are not a fringe group. If you think I'm being histrionic, read the headlines:
Faithful say their votes carried the day - San Diego Union Tribune
'Moral values' agenda proves edge - Chicago Tribune
Election reinforces U.S. religious divide - Los Angeles Times
Polls show faith, morality issues drew voters to Bush - Newsday
Conservative social values helped forge Bush re-election - San Jose Mercury News
A victory for 'values,' but whose? - Washington Post

Which would you rather have? A nation under attack by Islamic violence because we hold fast to a principle of separation between church and state? Or would you rather defeat Al Quaeda abroad while succumbing to James Dobson's American Taliban in our laws, because we're too afraid of hurting the feelings of Christians? Which one is, and already has been, a greater threat to the personal first-hand experience of you and me?Read more... )
My non-humanist friends are reacting to the outcome of this election with the same stress, fear, disgust and alienation that I experience all year round. The sad thing is, when I have someone else to feel this way with, I'm actually less lonely than I do when they are calm and conciliatory toward our enemies.

It takes the carnival sideshow of politics to bring it out in them. I wonder how long it will last. Why do people get so much more worked up about the publicized struggles of power brokers in Washington, but will be conciliatory and passive with the attitudes of their loved ones and neighbors that make it possible? Do they think we suddenly started living in a state that was against gay Americans just yesterday when Proposal 2 passed? I gave my time and money to stop it because I knew we were living with our enemies all along. I knew because I spend a lot of time in the trenches, in the thick of memetic warfare. What 60% of Michigan told us in unison yesterday by voting yes on 2, individuals tell me personally. "Hearts and minds" is where it counts, but most would rather confront office-holders than confront their families, neighbors and co-workers.

The re-election of a conquering borderline-theocrat and the passing of Michigan's anti-gay constitutional amendment was a symptom. Faith and obedience toward authority is the disease. My non-religious, non-humanist friends treat church as a pastime of harmless personal enrichment. They coddle the childlike trust shown by their friends and relatives as long as it's about something distant and abstract like gods and goddesses, with the idea that it won't connect to create real-world pain. But that's what faith does. Childlike faith and obedience is a relinquishment of personal judgement, of personal responsibility, of self-respect, of personal gain. Faith is anti-human: "mis- anthropy." When this little private misanthropy called faith is lauded as a virtue by our entire culture, how could it not encourage misanthropy to manifest tangibly? I have seen it happen in anyone from Christian Supremacists to Pagan Ecofascists.

They are not as rare as we think. A woman who lives a few miles from me thinks that we should carpet-bomb a random city anywhere in the Middle East until every man, woman and baby is dead-- and she holds to that position staunchly, because in her words, ethnic cleansing is the way her god treated arabs in her Old Testament. We are surrounded in the churches of this nation with the precise moral equivalent of the woman I once saw on television who said, with cowlike eyes full of vapid peace and tepid joy, that her greatest wish is for her small children to die as suicide bombers for Allah. I have heard comparable things from your neighbors and your doctors and your mailmen. It is even on your radio and your television. But we look the other way, out of a misapplied concept of what religious toleration means. Yes, under our first amendment (a triumph of secularism) we should never restrict misanthropic attitudes through legislation. They have as much right to speak and broadcast as anyone. By all means, leave them alone. But those of us who are pro-human should stop praising misanthropic books such as the bible, the quran and the torah. We don't have to pretend it's really OK if you look somewhere in them, "down deep," scraping the bottom of the barrel to make excuses for these books and their gods, and encourage the use of them for some supposed "true" interpretation.

It's time to choose our friends, our business transactions, and our families based on whether or not they are anti-human misanthropes. At the very least, be so unambiguous and outspoken that those relationships will inevitably cool as a result. Otherwise, one is contributing to a climate that condones authoritarianism. Then one can't complain and react with surprise when supposedly Unquestionable Truths are carried straight into the voting booth.

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nemorathwald: (me Matt)
I just got done voting. I enthusiastically voted for Kerry/Edwards-- in order to punish Bush. I would vote for a ham sandwich if the ticket does not include (or be supported by) the type of authority-worshipping religious zealots that I had to listen to while waiting in line to vote this morning. Because they are quivering with fear crying "oh save me strong authoritarian figures!" they thought staying with the problems of the administration that they know is an intrinsically good thing. They feared the unknown. Because I feel safe and confident, I thought that getting a new set of problems that we don't know about yet is an intrinsically good thing.

Yes, granted, I know that Kerry has great positions that I like; for instance, it's very important to me to promote equal rights for homosexuals, to overturn the Patriot Act, to promote stem cell research and to take Bush's shackles off of science. That's my priority list.

However, history shows that it's anyone's guess whether any politician will fulfill any campaign promises whatsoever when in office. Kerry's running for president: that's all the proof you need that he's up to something sinister. I do not know yet why I will hate Kerry, but I voted to give him the chance to show me his inevitable bad side, so that I can vote against him four years from now. Always vote against the incumbent, so that an opposing group of criminals can un-do and balance out what was done by the first set of criminals. Never reward someone for succeeding in a two-party political system.

Have you noticed that every president is always perceived as the worst president in America's history, while he is in office? And then history takes a milder view, after there is nothing left to be done about the controversies. Did you see the recent documentary about Carter? All of a sudden he is remembered for Habitat for Humanity. When did that happen?

So when will we be able to vote our consciences? When will I be able to vote for the Libertarian Party for president? When we have instant runoff voting, that's when. Under this system you rank the candidates in order of preference. If we had had IRV in Florida in 2000, people could have voted Nader first, Gore second, Bush third, etc. Then their votes would have gone to Gore and Gore would have swept the state. Only when power is taken away from the two major parties will they be forced to listen to the real values of America. But only when we have instant runoff voting will it be reasonable or moral to vote for third party candidates. Until then, it's more important to vote third party on all the local elections. Which is what I did today: beneath the federal level, straight Libertarian.


Sep. 2nd, 2004 08:08 am
Ever since I realized how close Andy's departure to PCC loomed, I've been waking white-knuckled and shaking from dreams which always ended either in tears or explosive rage. Andy and I and my friend [ profile] samuraijkm (a fellow PCC refugee) are climbing a maze of traps. A platform collapses and Andy falls into a bottomless pit. If you have any loved ones at all, you can probably imagine that my reaction was not a calm one. The dreams are always different, but easy to understand. I'm going to keep a close eye on PCC while my brother is there. So, it's like I'm dragged back to a horrible episode of my life I had happily left behind.

This week I went to our parents' house to drop off the Hellboy trade paperback Andy loaned me. Dad found it and confronted Andy about having bought it. This time he used a gently imploring tone which he's been practicing ever since [ profile] wulfthestampede and I stopped listening to anything he has to say. Dad realized he can't influence his kids just by demanding that they respect him. Considering that Andy leaves the nest this week, it's obviously too little too late. Andy has a adult's grip on reality that my dad will not shake-- but perhaps the military-school atmosphere of PCC will have better luck brainwashing him. Andy distinguishes reality from fantasies like Hellboy with a little thing we adults who live in the real world call "make believe." In this regard he is light-years ahead of our parents at the tender age of 18. After the confrontation, I went in and fished Hellboy out of the trash and said to Andy, "Unless you want to put up with four years of that, go to an excellent veterinary school like MSU. Do either one if that's what you really want. That's all I'm going to say."

What I should have done was confronted Dad by telling him I know lots of real-life witches and they're no worse than he is. In fact they're the same gullible fools that my parents are. Before the neopagans get all over my case about criticizing (which I will not retract), understand my point, that my parents need to hear and consider that in the eyes of their adult son who knows them well, they are the same as witches on the crackpot fringe of society. Now is the turning point in my brother's life as it was in mine, and I need to give my parents and PCC the tooth-and-claw fight of their miserable lives. So many PCC students stay there under the illusion that they would have nowhere else to turn. I need to start raising funds for plane fare home for Andy. A cash bucket on a table, with his picture and a sign reading "help give a second chance to someone in thrall to crackpot loons by an accident of birth!" I need to start hunting for scholarships and grants for him. I need to get an extra bed and set it up at my place for him. I need to start organizing an underground railroad for PCC students. I am going to FIGHT for my siblings!
nemorathwald: (me Matt)
8/31/04, Edited to add: Oh yes, in my haste to describe the abuses I forgot to mention it's not accredited either. Putting up with four years of PCC accomplishes a diploma that isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

This week my brother is leaving to attend his first semester at my alma mater, Pensacola Christian College. Those of you who know me are aware of my views on that.

PCC bans the internet, forbids visits to off-campus libraries, and restricts speech to compliance with their narrow interpretation of doctrine. Maybe he has carefully considered that and sincerely decided it falls within educational goals rather than indoctrination. Perhaps after thoughtful review of my stories of wiretaps, mail opening, secret search and seizure and reporting on each other, and students suddenly being cordoned off incommunicado, interrogated and expelled in the middle of the night-- he may have decided it's exaggeration. After all, describing PCC as a non-violent version of the Taliban does sound like hyperbole to someone who hasn't experienced it.

Or perhaps instead he's settling for a lot of disagreeable things because it's the easy way, being so inexpensive. It also makes the throng of aimless 18-year-old confused muppets who wander through its gates look like stalwarts of spiritualized purpose to their parents and pastors. Which way he's taking is not for me to judge. Either way it's his life and I respect him doing with it as he wishes. Perhaps he's strong enough that a dozen repetitions of "Have Thine Own Way Lord" eight times a week will not lull him into a trance.

But I'll be here for him when he wants to know where to find the gaps in the compound's barbed-wire fence.Read more... )

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