Friday, October 06, 2006

In Response to Anonymous

THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO "ANONYMOUS", WHOSE COMMENTS ARE IN ITALICS. FORGIVE THE ALL-CAPS BUT WITH THIS BLOG'S FORMAT, THEY'RE EASIER TO SEE.

ANONYMOUS, YOU REMIND ME OF ONE OF MY FAVORITE CHANTS FROM MY MANY PEACE PROTESTS OVER THE YEARS, "FIGHTING FOR PEACE IS LIKE F*CKING FOR CHASTITY." GIVE ME A MOMENT AND YOU'LL SEE WHAT I MEAN.

Ah, cultural reletivism, the great disabler of actual discussion in America!

Here is the left's biggest problem, we've convinced ourselves that we're not allowed to question anybody's beliefs about anything because we are afraid of stepping on anyone's toes.

AHEM... I QUOTE "WE MUST BE HUMBLE ENOUGH... TO CHALLENGE OURSELVES WITH THE SAME VIGOR AS WE CHALLENGE OTHERS." THIS DOESN'T MEAN WE CAN'T QUESTION ANYBODY'S BELIEFS, ONLY THAT WE SHOULD QUESTION OUR OWN AS WELL. CULTURAL RELATIVISM (OR YOUR INNACURATE DESCRIPTION OF THE THEORY OF CULTURAL RELATIVISM) IS A LOVELY STRAW MAN IN THIS CASE, DON'T YOU THINK?

Well not all ideas are created equal! Some are better reasoned, better supported by evidence, and more likely to be correct and we have every right (if not the responsibility) to defend them and try to promote them. When we refuse to stand up for logic and reason, we open the doors to illogical extremism.

NOWHERE DID I SAY THAT ALL IDEAS ARE CREATED EQUAL NOR THAT WE SHOULD NOT DEFEND REASON. INSTEAD, I CONDEMNED CORRECTING THE INACCURACIES OF OTHERS WITH INACCURACIES OF OUR OWN, BEING SKEPTICAL OF OTHERS WHILE ACCEPTING WITHOUT THOUGHT WHAT WE WISH TO BE TRUE, AND DEFENDING REASON WITH IRRATIONAL MEANS/ARGUMENTS. IN OTHER WORDS, I THINK WE SHOULDN'T F*CK FOR CHASTITY.

This doesn't just mean that we should stand up to extremists. Moderate proponents of illogical ideas (such as supernatural entities) serve as validation for extremist variations of those moderate ideas. The moderate community also serves as the recruitment grouds for extremist groups.

LET'S APPLY THIS OUTSIDE OF RELIGION, SHALL WE? BY THIS LOGIC, WHICH IS NOT QUITE LOGIC AT ALL BUT A CAREFULLY WORDED APPLICATION OF THE GUILT BY ASSOCIATION FALLACY AND BOLD-FACED BIGOTRY, ALL FEMINISTS VALIDATE MALE-BASHING EXTREMISM BECAUSE WE'RE ALL VIRULENTLY OPPOSED TO PATRIARCHY, ALL VEGETARIANS VALIDATE THOSE WHO CARRY OUT VIOLENT ATTACKS ON THOSE WHO EAT MEAT OR WEAR FUR BECAUSE THEY CONSIDER THE KILLING OF ANIMALS MORALLY DEPLORABLE, ALL SOCIALISTS VALIDATE THE "CULT OF PERSONALITY" SOCIALIST GOVERNMENT OF CUBA, ETC. CAN YOU RECRUIT EXTREME FEMINISTS FROM NON-FEMINISTS? CAN YOU RECRUIT EXTREME VEGETARIANS FROM HAPPY MEAT-EATERS? CAN YOU RECRUIT SUPPORT FOR AUTHORITARIAN SOCIALIST GOVERNMENTS FROM CAPITALISTS? NO. SO, BY YOUR "LOGIC", WE MUST CONDEMN MODERATE FEMINISTS, VEGETARIANS, AND SOCIALISTS AS WELL BECAUSE THEY VALIDATE THE EXTREMIST FORMS OF THOSE IDEOLOGIES AND PROVIDE THE RECRUITING GROUNDS FOR EXTREMISTS.

I think that this (at least in part) explains the vitriolic response that many atheists had to your column of a few months back. A considerable portion of the atheist community feels (with very good reason) that moderate religious belief serves as an unwitting accomplice to extremist religious violence. Any person who holds up a book and says "this is the word of god" validates the extremist who attempts to carry out the violent actions towards un-believers, apostates, and other groups proscribed by the Bronze Age mythology contained within that book. This is why many atheists feel that it is their duty to challenge people on their religious faith and why so many of your readers were upset by your comments.

AND EVERY PERSON WHO SAYS PATRIARCHY MUST BE DESTROYED SUPPORTS MALE-BASHING. AND EVERY PERSON WHO CONDEMNS THE SLAUGHTER OF ANIMALS SUPPORTS THROWING PAINT ON WOMEN WEARING FURS OR TERRORIZING CHILDREN OUTSIDE OF KFC WITH PAMPHLETS VIVIDLY DEPICTING THE SLAUGHTER OF CHICKENS. AND EVERY PERSON WHO BELIEVES IN SOCIALIST THEORY IN ANY FORM SUPPORTS AUTHORITARIANISM.

AS FOR WHY SO MANY ATHEISTS WERE OFFENDED BY MY COLUMN, I THINK THERE WAS MORE THAN JUST ONE MOTIVATION BASED ON THE COMMENTS I RECEIVED. SOME OBVIOUSLY THOUGHT THIS "GUILT BY ASSOCIATION" NONSENSE WAS VALID. SOME SAW ONLY THAT I WAS RELIGIOUS AND THEREFORE LABELED ME "INHERENTLY INTOLERANT" IN THE WORDS OF ONE COMMENTER. SOME READ WORKS BY WRITERS WHO WILLINGLY DISTORTED WHAT I WROTE, CLAIMING THAT I TOOK STANCES THAT WERE NOT PRESENT IN THE COLUMN OR IN ANY OF MY OTHER WORK, BUT DIDN'T BOTHER TO READ THE COLUMN ITSELF. (HOW CAN I TELL? MANY DESCRIBED ME AS A CHRISTIAN, ALTHOUGH IT SAYS RATHER CLEARLY IN THE COLUMN THAT I PRACTICE JUDAISM. OR THAT THEY INSINUATED THAT I'M PROBABLY ALSO ANTI-SEMITIC AND HOMOPHOBIC WHEN I'M GAY AND JEWISH.) SOME WERE OFFENDED BASED ON THEIR READING OF SITES THAT CLAIMED I TOOK STANCES THAT ARE CONTRADICTED BY THE COLUMN, THE REST OF MY WRITING, AND MY MOST DEEPLY HELD BELIEFS. FOR SOME, IT WAS AN HONEST MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT WHAT I PROPOSED DUE TO PROBLEMS WITH THE PRESENTATION AND TO THEM, I APOLOGIZED.

THE TACTICS, HOWEVER, WERE IRRATIONAL, EXTREME, AND DEPLORABLE BY ANY STANDARD OF COMMON DECENCY. IN THE PROCESS OF SMEARING ME AS A BIGOT ON THOUSANDS OF SITES, BLOGS, MESSAGE BOARDS, AND COMMENT THREADS, THEY DEPLOYED A VERITABLE ARMY OF LOGICAL FALLACIES: STRAW MEN, AD HOMINEM ATTACKS, APPEALS TO AUTHORITY, APPEALS TO CONSEQUENCES OF A BELIEF, APPEALS TO RIDICULE, APPEALS TO IGNORANCE, CIRCUMSTANTIAL AD HOMINEMS, FALLACIES OF COMPOSITION, GENETIC FALLACIES, GUILT BY ASSOCIATION, ETC. AD INFINITUM. AND LET US NOT FORGET THAT I'M A "CUNT," "BITCH," AND "JEW DYKE."

TO "DEFEND" REASON BY AN UNQUESTIONING ASSERTION OF LOGICAL FALLACIES THAT YOU WANT TO BE TRUE IS PREPOSTEROUS. IT IS NO LESS ABSURD THAN F*CKING FOR CHASTITY.

8 Comments:

Blogger reasonably prudent poet said...

well put. as someone who saves my warmest, fuzziest heart-places for "jew dykes," i just wanted to say nice work. what you write is good to read.

i also want to suggest you ennable your comment verification so you don't have to get so much attention from spambots.

3:38 PM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

Thanks for the advice. I hadn't had much problem with spambots until now. Thanks also for the compliment. I must say I've really enjoyed reading your stuff as well.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"AND EVERY PERSON WHO SAYS PATRIARCHY MUST BE DESTROYED SUPPORTS MALE-BASHING. AND EVERY PERSON WHO CONDEMNS THE SLAUGHTER OF ANIMALS SUPPORTS THROWING PAINT ON WOMEN WEARING FURS OR TERRORIZING CHILDREN OUTSIDE OF KFC WITH PAMPHLETS VIVIDLY DEPICTING THE SLAUGHTER OF CHICKENS. AND EVERY PERSON WHO BELIEVES IN SOCIALIST THEORY IN ANY FORM SUPPORTS AUTHORITARIANISM."

Frankly, no.

There is a difference between supporting a social theory which is supported by evidence and belief in a extraodinarily unlikely supernatural being.

Vegetarianism, feminism, and socialism can all be reasonably debated. The evidence for and against these positions can be validated. Most importantly, they can be reasonably implemented without validating the "extreme" positions adopted by some. You can stiffen animal rights and anti-cruelty laws and maintain distance from the terroristic tactics of PETA.

Religious beliefs, on the other hand, are not supported by evidence. Thus they can not be reasonably debated. You have to take the whole deal on faith or nothing at all.

Any truly religious person has no business being a moderate. If you really believe that there is a theistic God who cares what you do, answers prayers, and reads your thoughts then you have no reason to not follow the directions he laid down in whatever religious text you claim to believe.

If you really believed in the god of the Torah, you would have trouble being a vegetarian, lesbian feminist. The Torah is pretty explicit about God's desire for a patriachical, heterosexual, meat-eating society.

So here's what I think:

I think Orthodox Jews who refuse to shake a woman's hand are sexists.

I think Muslims who believe in the rightousness of holy jihad are terrorists.

I think Christians who condemn homosexuality are homophobic.

I think that people who use religion as an excuse for bigotry are still bigots.

I think that the people who disagree with "holy texts" but still give them lip service are helping to support the irrational bigotry that is far too influential in this country.

I think that you are too weak or cowardly to stand up and say "Why should I worship a god that wouldn't have me as I am?"

I think that you have not challenged your own religious beliefs.

I think you feel threatened by outspoken atheists because you know in the logical recesses of your brain that we are right, but you would rather not have your comfortable illusion disturbed.

I don't mean to get personal, but I think you need to hear it.

2:01 AM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

Odd. You are challenged for using irrational arguments in "defense" of reason, so you let loose with a lot of irrational claims.

"Frankly, no.

There is a difference between supporting a social theory which is supported by evidence and belief in a extraodinarily unlikely supernatural being.

Vegetarianism, feminism, and socialism can all be reasonably debated. The evidence for and against these positions can be validated. Most importantly, they can be reasonably implemented without validating the "extreme" positions adopted by some. You can stiffen animal rights and anti-cruelty laws and maintain distance from the terroristic tactics of PETA."

Actually, there isn't. Vegetarianism, socialism, and feminism are inherently based on value judgements, which are external to logic. Those who argue for vegetarianism on a health basis may have some evidence on their side. Those who argue for vegetarianism on moral grounds do not. The logical point remains the same--you are using a "guilt by association" fallacy.

Also, there is no logical or mathematical way to assess the likelihood of the existence of G-d. Both of these statements, "There is a G-d" and "There is no G-d." lack sufficient logical proof or material evidence. Some would argue that if all arguments for the existence of G-d have been insufficient to prove the claim, then the claim is false. This is called a modal fallacy. Others argue that since we've never definitely experienced or observed G-d, then the G-d claim is false. This is inductive reasoning, which is inherently irrational according to Hume. There is no logical basis to assume that our inability thus far to definitively observe a deity or deities disproves their existence.

"Religious beliefs, on the other hand, are not supported by evidence. Thus they can not be reasonably debated. You have to take the whole deal on faith or nothing at all."

Strange since religious beliefs have been the subject of reasonable debate for thousands of years. There has been no conclusive answer to many of the questions posed by religious people, but the debate has occurred.

"Any truly religious person has no business being a moderate. If you really believe that there is a theistic God who cares what you do, answers prayers, and reads your thoughts then you have no reason to not follow the directions he laid down in whatever religious text you claim to believe."

Not necessarily so. This is why religious people debate whether the book is divinely authored, divinely inspired, etc. We also debate whether the scriptures are intended for literal or metaphorical interpretation. Not to mention how carefully we should consider the role of humans in authoring, interpreting, or altering the texts. Again, you make the irrational claim that in order to believe in the perfect deity described in scripture, we must believe in divine authorship, literal interpretation, and the perfect transmission of these texts without alteration for thousands of years by apparently infallible humans. What logical basis do you have for this claim? None.

"If you really believed in the god of the Torah, you would have trouble being a vegetarian, lesbian feminist. The Torah is pretty explicit about God's desire for a patriachical, heterosexual, meat-eating society."

See above. By the way, I'm not a vegetarian. You got the lesbian feminist part right, though.

"So here's what I think:

I think Orthodox Jews who refuse to shake a woman's hand are sexists.

I think Muslims who believe in the rightousness of holy jihad are terrorists.

I think Christians who condemn homosexuality are homophobic.

I think that people who use religion as an excuse for bigotry are still bigots."

These are your opinions and I would agree with some of them although you pretty much use the definition of a thing to claim that it is that thing, (Yes, those who have an "excuse for bigotry" are by definition "bigots".) but you must also consider how these people think/feel about things, not just your own reactions to them.

"I think that the people who disagree with "holy texts" but still give them lip service are helping to support the irrational bigotry that is far too influential in this country."

Again, the guilt by association fallacy and a careful avoidance of the question of how those who virulently oppose extremism and attack it vociferously could be supporting it. Not to mention, you fail to take into account the theological and reasoned justifications for interpreting scriptures in alternative ways, including concessions to the facts that these texts are if not human authored, human interpreted and human altered.

"I think that you are too weak or cowardly to stand up and say "Why should I worship a god that wouldn't have me as I am?""

This assumes I believe that my G-d wouldn't have me as I am. You are not permitted, rationally, to assign such a belief to me without it being a.) an absolutely necessary assumption to some claim made by me b.) in evidence that this is what I actually believe. Obviously, it's not what I believe.

"I think that you have not challenged your own religious beliefs."

Again, you irrationally assign a behavior/thought to me that is not in evidence and patently false. I challenged my own religious beliefs enough to convert from Christianity to Judaism on religious grounds. I also challenged them enough to be accepted for conversion, which isn't easy in Judaism.

"I think you feel threatened by outspoken atheists because you know in the logical recesses of your brain that we are right, but you would rather not have your comfortable illusion disturbed."

Again, you assign motive that is not in evidence in order to attack my arguments. Appeal to motive is a common logicall fallacy.

"I don't mean to get personal, but I think you need to hear it."

Getting personal i.e. ad hominem fallacies are quite common as well. I wonder, however, how you think I could benefit by being bombarded with irrational arguments and logical fallacies. Hmmmmmmm... (Perhaps you simply think I need some amusement at your continued insistence on f*cking for chastity. If so, you have served your purpose. I am highly amused.)

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Also, there is no logical or mathematical way to assess the likelihood of the existence of G-d. Both of these statements, "There is a G-d" and "There is no G-d." lack sufficient logical proof or material evidence. Some would argue that if all arguments for the existence of G-d have been insufficient to prove the claim, then the claim is false. This is called a modal fallacy. Others argue that since we've never definitely experienced or observed G-d, then the G-d claim is false. This is inductive reasoning, which is inherently irrational according to Hume. There is no logical basis to assume that our inability thus far to definitively observe a deity or deities disproves their existence."

I agree, but then again we have no way of disproving Bertand Russel's argument that there is a china teapot orbiting the sun which is too small to be seen on telescopes. We have no way of proving that the Olympian gods don't exist. We can't prove the non-existance of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Invisible Pink Unicorn either.

Simply because neither claim can be proven does not make them equally likely to be true. The fact remains that there is no evidence at all that points to the existance of any divine being, afterlife, or any other supernatural phenomena.

If religion were simply the act of believing silly myths it would be as harmless as people who believe in ghosts or psychics. But religions have a social agenda. Religious groups affect public policy concerning education, foriegn policy, environmental policy, and practically every public act in this country.

As an atheist living in this country, I have to deal with the crazy policies that only make sense when viewed from a particular religious point of view. So when somebody does a hatchet job on atheists, it pisses me off.

There is no conspiracy out to smear you. You simply wrote an ignorant article. Sure, some people called you names. But then again, you called me a whackjob, so you kind of had that coming. The frustration you saw had more to do with your half-assed apology and profound misunderstanding of many atheists.

You clearly still have no idea what you are talking about. Might I suggest some casual reading.

Bertrand Russel, "Why I am not a christian"
Daniel Dennet, "breaking the spell"
Richard Dawkins, "The God Delusion"
Sam Harris, "The End of Faith" & "Letter to a Christian nation"

Until then, I'll leave you alone. You're not a bad person, just very defensive and reluctant to apply critical thought to the ideas you have chosen to believe.

I hope you read these books and seriously consider the arguments within. They can change your life if you let them.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

You assume I'm not familiar with these works. I assure you I am and find them unconvincing.

Also, I've never claimed there was a "conspiracy." People responded in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, some individuals who chose to distort what I wrote have a tremendous amount of influence on their readers, who will too often accept their misrepresentations without question. Many atheists, I'll add, unreservedly supported what I had to say and condemned the uncalled for response.

As for the rest, your reading of my thoughts/knowledge/behavior etc. is as always unimpressive, inaccurate, and wholly irrational. And your reason leaves much to be desired.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking about atheism with you is like trying to discuss evolution with a creationist. Simply saying "I'm not convinced" is not good enough when the burden of proof is on you.

Actually, I've discussed evolution with Thomas Heinze (of creationism.org) and he was more receptive of new ideas than you are.

If you want to practice your rituals, attend your services, say your prayers, and interperet your Bronze Age mythologies, fine. Frankly, I don't care a bit what you choose to do with your free time. I get upset when I have to deal with the public policy decisions that are affected by faith groups.

I have to live in a world where people kill each other over religion.

Let me repeat that.

It's 2006 and people are KILLING each other over silly myths that are no more true than the stories of Herecles and Aeneas!

That scares the crap out of me.

Imagine some group of Olympian god worshipers who claimed greece as their rightful homeland. They'd be laughed off, of course. Now imagine if they started a war to claim Greece. How is that any different than the hundreds of religion-feuled struggles going on right now.

So if you want to go on pretending that religion is harmless or somehow beneficial to the welfare of the human race, I'd like to see you account for the lives lost in the name of religion.

Personally, I'll stick with reason and try to wash some of the blood from my hands.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

Anonymous said...

"Speaking about atheism with you is like trying to discuss evolution with a creationist. Simply saying "I'm not convinced" is not good enough when the burden of proof is on you.

Actually, I've discussed evolution with Thomas Heinze (of creationism.org) and he was more receptive of new ideas than you are."

If you're making a claim, then the burden of proof is on you. If I'm making a claim, then the burden of proof is on me. However, neither of us has a burden of proof for claims we do not make within the bounds of the debate.

I'm not trying to convince you that you should accept the existence of G-d or the validity of any religious beliefs whatsoever. To do so would violate my own beliefs. Within the rules of debate, I am not required to prove a claim or argue a point that I don't make. I have argued my points. You've argued yours, often with logical fallacies. In keeping with the rules of debate, I pointed out the flaws in your arguments. Period.

As for being receptive to new ideas, I'm very receptive, that doesn't mean I have to agree with them. I've spent innumerable hours reading the ideas put forth by other people. I intentionally seek out different opinions in order to do my work. (I probably spend a hundred hours reading other people's stuff for every hour or two I spend writing my own.) Do I have to agree with every one? Well, no. Do I have to refrain from expressing my disagreement? No.

"If you want to practice your rituals, attend your services, say your prayers, and interperet your Bronze Age mythologies, fine. Frankly, I don't care a bit what you choose to do with your free time. I get upset when I have to deal with the public policy decisions that are affected by faith groups."

Depending on the public policy, so do I. If a faith group wants to come out in support of gay marriage, for instance, I agree with that policy. If a faith group wants to come out against gay marriage, I oppose that policy. For me, it's the policy that matters not the origins of its support. So, I'm not upset that it's a faith group in particular that's opposing gay marriage. I'm upset that my rights are being attacked.

"I have to live in a world where people kill each other over religion.

Let me repeat that.

It's 2006 and people are KILLING each other over silly myths that are no more true than the stories of Herecles and Aeneas!"

I have to live in a world where in 2006, people kill each other over land, water, food resources, communism, Marxism, socialism, capitalism, power, oil, money, sex, drugs, state-enforced theism AND state-enforced atheism, shoes, petty personal squabbles, domestic issues, nationalism, race, sexual orientation, sexism, eugenics, etc. ad infinitum. What's your point? How is violence over religion somehow different?

"That scares the crap out of me."

I can totally get that. But why does religious violence scare you any more than any of the many other justifications for violence?

"Imagine some group of Olympian god worshipers who claimed greece as their rightful homeland. They'd be laughed off, of course. Now imagine if they started a war to claim Greece. How is that any different than the hundreds of religion-feuled struggles going on right now."

It wouldn't be. But that someone would do violence in the name of the Greek deities doesn't refute their existence or condemn EVERYONE who believes in the Greek deities regardless of their support/disapproval of violence in their name.
In my mind, violence in the name of anything is violence. Only the scale and nature of the violence matter. I don't think the motives make much difference except in cases of self-defense or the attempt to save life.

"So if you want to go on pretending that religion is harmless or somehow beneficial to the welfare of the human race, I'd like to see you account for the lives lost in the name of religion."

I haven't said that religion is harmless. I've argued many times that religion is a constantly shifting spectrum that responds to external stimuli and internal dynamics, becoming one thing in one time and place and a completely different thing in another time and place. The spectrum is so vast and shifts so often that few if any generalized statements can be made that adequately describe all of religion.

"Personally, I'll stick with reason and try to wash some of the blood from my hands."

So, there's blood on my hands due to religiously-motivated murder? Is there blood on your hands due to the Jews, Christian clergymen and religious congregants murdered or sent to labor camps by the Soviets in their attempt to enforce atheism in the USSR? Are you also guilty by association since both you and they were opposed to religion? I would argue that you bear no responsibility for their acts regardless of the similarities in your beliefs. I would condemn anyone who would attempt to blame you for them. Based on your arguments,however, you would argue that you are responsible, that is if you wish to be consistent in your arguments.

9:26 PM  

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