Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Not Atheist Not God Botherer Not Conservative Not Liberal

When I get an idea for a blog I just create a title, and may add a few notes here, 2 or 3 sentences at the most. Then when I have time I come back and "FLESH IT OUT". It's called Torrent of Consciousness for a reason. I write it in one go, quickly, without editing. Those of you who are fast on the uptake often see it before I've even read it back, and find some hysterical typos. Another word for a piece of writing that is written in this way is a rant. This morning, I know not why, everything is crazy. And I thought to myself, now which of those blog idea would be best turned into a full piece today.

This one won the prize.

It goes like this. We are all different, and we all have different beliefs, so we see things differently. Good. It'd be bloody boring otherwise. And obviously that means we are going to disagree over religious and political matters and doughnuts, but if we are mature and sensible, we don't have to actually attack one another. Which is why I'm so done with labels used as insults.

I get it that labels are convenient. I get it that we have a tribal history, so identifying people in groups comes naturally. I get it that people label themselves too, and that while I usually follow the maxim of calling them what they call themselves, that can get complex too.

To explain what I mean, let's pretend there's a group called Dunglings. And somebody says "I'm a Dungling" and we say "OK". Then time passes and we meet another Dungling, who is very different, and we mention this, and get told that Dungling #1 isn't a REAL Dungling. And we say OK. So then we talk to Dungling #1 and HE says Dungling #2 isn't a real Dungling. And we shoot ourselves. No, but how are we supposed to deal with this? Which one do we believe?

So, just "go with what he calls himself" doesn't always work.

Still, that's the best we've got, so I think it's the best way to approach it.

For that reason, if you call me a liberal, with no bad intent, I'll gently correct you.

In the United States politics is just a two party thing. One or the other. Right or left. Either/or. This is black and white thinking but you can't really blame them because it's all they've ever known.

In most of the rest of the democratic world (and I use that term loosely) there is right, left, and centre. And generally speaking liberals are in the centre.

HOWEVER, increasingly in the US (and elsewhere, actually) liberals have moved right of centre in many ways. And while I'm not actively Marxist despite everything, I am most definitely left of centre.

Here in Canada liberal is associated with waste and corruption, especially in Ontario. Which isn't to say these are liberal traits, it's just what the Liberals (big L) in power here tend to be like, so we've got used to that.

There is a dictionary definition of liberal:


Which is the best guide you can use really.

But what a Canadian thinks of when they say liberal, and what an American thinks, are really not the same thing.

Either way, use of the word liberal as an insult is a bit bizarre.

For a start who knows what they mean? Do they mean anything from the dictionary definition? If so, how is it a bad thing? Do they mean like an American democrat? Do they mean like a Canadian Liberal?

So how do you respond? Difficult.

Then there's religion. I get called an atheist, A LOT. Which I'm not. OK. But I'll state flat out here, I'm not a theist. A theist is what we non-theists call a God-botherer. Not only have they decided that their version of what the word God means is the correct version, they then ANNOY that deity constantly with demands. They have all sorts of reasons for doing this, but when it comes down to it they either:

1. Think God is a magician who casts spells on request, or
2. Has no clue what's going on.

Both of which really aren't things taught in most mainstream religions.

Somebody once told me there are no atheists in foxholes and that when you are really at that point, you WILL PRAY no matter what. So, when I was on that airplane that I believed 100% was just about to crash what did I do? Pray? Nope. What went through my mind? I'll tell you. "Well, this is it then, at least the kids and Martin are with me and we'll all go together." There was no fear, no tears, no screaming, no last minute conversion, nothing you might quite reasonably expect. Certainly no pleading for mercy to any deity just in case. It was an interesting experience.

There's nothing wrong with praying. It's a nice quiet meditation, a bit of gratitude, and a bit of hope. This is all very positive. Personally I prefer a bit of moon drawing down, but I think what happens inside us amounts to the same thing, which is really why we do whatever we do.

I don't believe in Reiki. I think it's complete bullshit, and anyone who pays for it is a sucker. BUT, if they enjoy the experience, then that's fine. I would never support any effort to ban Reiki, or cause trouble for Reiki practitioners. They provide a service, and one pays for services. If that service is a placebo, or headology, or for entertainment purposes only, or the only chance you get to relax and have somebody's undivided attention for a while, and you are not taking food from hungry children to pay for it, then be my guest.

You will never find me criticizing a person for doing anything harmless that they enjoy and can afford.

I do think some things cross a line. The price of the water that they sell labelled "homeopathic" is unethical. Even as a placebo it's outrageously expensive. I think scientology crosses the line into actual scam territory, and I'd happily see it illegal. When the price is that high, it's no longer harmless and I can no longer shrug it off.

And then there's that whole idea that if you believe something enough, it becomes real. It creates itself, like Discworld gods. You know, they have shown this to be true in very very small ways with quantum physics, and therefore we cannot dismiss it. But I think we have to be careful with it.

But that's not all, is it?

As I've said before, I don't see belief as an actual choice. There's something else going on there.

Not that it matters.

Going back to the Discworld, Pratchett was one of our finest thinkers - a philosopher. Authors die all the time, and there are plenty more, but he was a loss because he was more than just a story writer.

“Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman."

If a deity requires belief to exist, maybe that's why he demands prayers or worship.

So, as I said, I don't believe in God, ergo I'm not a theist, but I'm not an atheist either. That's something else. I have many friends who are atheists, and they are all fine people. Ethical people. People beyond criticism. So I get a bit....ranty.....when anyone disparages atheists. I've never actually MET a bad atheist. I've met more bad theists than I can count.

"Ah, but they weren't real.........." (fill in the blank).

They said they were. What do I know.

I've even met bad Pagans. Some fucking arseholes.

I've also met good theists, but now, after all these years "good" isn't a requirement. Huh. Who knew. I thought it would be a basic requirement, but apparently you can be HORRIBLE and still belong to any religion you like, even preach it. It doesn't even make you a hypocrite. It just means you're still not there yet. You are a work in progress.

I think that entire thing is complete bullshit.

I once knew a Catholic who was in most ways a really good man. 99% ethical, and that's a high mark.

But we got onto the topic of the sanctity of life. He was anti abortion, like any by-the-book Catholic, but he wasn't difficult about it. Still, we discussed the bigger picture and I asked how he could justify other types of legal killing, and yes, they do. Oh they do. Self-defence is...... a grey area.

Here's what he said about that. He said that if somebody broke into his house and threatened his family, he would not shoot that person. INSTEAD he'd aim the gun at the space behind them, and tell them to get out of the way. Then he'd shoot. That way he was not responsible. He didn't kill. He just fired into empty space and somebody got in the way.

And he was quite serious about this, and I gathered that it was not his own idea but a standard Catholic apologist method of dealing with an ethical dilemma.

I think that's very clever, but I also think it's bullshit.

Anyway, the point is, that's theist ethics. Twisty turny wormy weasely theist ethics. The atheist and the non-theist will tell you straight out that they will shoot to kill if necessary, and face the consequences.

The theist believes. The atheist does not believe. The agnostic says "it's impossible to know" and I long ago sat that in my head on the shelf alongside belief not being optional. If I were a Discworld witch it would be so much simpler. Their gods walk around and meet people, like celebrities. Or politicians.

As a Pagan I guess it's much the same, every time a butterfly lands on me I smile and enjoy a brief moment of interaction with the divine. Some people (both those within and without my world) decide to call that God. It's a bit (!) controversial, so probably not a good idea, but it sure makes the questioning fun....

"Do you believe in God?
"Which one?"

"Do you believe in God?"
"Define God."

The problem is that it's the wrong question. It's a SILLY question, and if you ask silly questions you get silly answers.

But it's just so convenient, isn't it? "He's a conservative Christian." Sometimes he even tells you this, but what does it really mean? Does it help warn you what to expect? Does it soften the blow if he walks like a duck and quacks like a duck? I don't know.

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