Author Topic: ethical question/rant about ignorance  (Read 102 times)

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Offline MatCauthon

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ethical question/rant about ignorance
« on: November 26, 2014, 08:45:54 PM »
Let me begin by characterizing my understanding of religion: There is not a god that specifically created us that wants us to worship it, or else it would let us know about it.

My wife shares this idea, but that is apparently where the similarities end.  Now, when we first met, I had just finished reading The Age of Reason, and I was telling her some of the juicier bits and we were laughing hysterically. We loved (and still do) The Invention of Lying.  It was great that we could share the natural born non-idea that there was not an invisible sky-daddy watching us do naughty things on our bed at night, especially considering that we live in the bible belt. (I know, double negative, but it is hard to get around the culturally mandated ideas that there is a god whose name is “GOD” and that people that don’t share that idea are in the minority.)

Over the last five years, we have had some difficult times raising kids and moving quite a few times, and she has had some post partum depression.  She has increasingly voiced a desire to “be spiritual.” She is quite insistent that she does not believe in any gods that have been written about, and is more “connected to the earth” or some shit.  I don’t really understand. I have absolutely ZERO spirituality in me, and I have no desire to have any. The extent of my spirituality is that I find awe in that we share DNA with a tree, for instance.

In the past few weeks, I have been taking an evolution class (one of my favorite subjects), and it has really made me look at some new topics that I had previously not known about.  The lack of resources available about the understanding of some bleeding edge scientific findings have led me to scour the internet in some unlikely places, including WWGHA and youtube. (I try to limit my research to my school’s peer-reviewed database of thousands, if not millions, of articles.)

Well, you know youtube and those damned suggestions- so addicting.  Of course I’m going to watch a lecture by Richard Dawkins. He’s a fucking Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Fucking Oxford University, if you please.  What’s this?  Someone is rudely asking him a question as to how he can base his career on “just a theory”?  Of course I click on the suggestions, many with titles such as “Harris destroys Muslim” or “Dawkins and Hitchens G@ngbang Fuckfest of Idiot Theist Fucktard” or some shit.  I am also led to videos about ignorance on climate change, or idiot Fox News reporters about different scientific topics.

She seems to find this offensive, that I am mocking people with different beliefs.  And this comes up several days in a row for at least an hour.  I make the following points:

1.   I do not have “beliefs” about science. I accept the data that the overwhelming portion of the scientific community has been rigorously testing for centuries.
2.   I generally don’t laugh when watching these videos. It actually saddens me that there are people that stupid.
3.   Those idiots are the ones that are mocking learned men, interrupting their lectures to say stupid shit like, “But won’t you accept GAWD and JEESUS into your life!??”
4.   I need to be able to defend myself, and more importantly, less intelligent people that might actually change their minds about religion if, when an ignorant person says something dumb about science, I can step in with the facts or the correct argument, and prevent further ignorance from spreading.
5.   Even if I were mocking them, it is perfectly acceptable because those people have kept down the advancement of the human species at every opportunity so they could wield extra power and/or money, and they have done nothing but hurt people with their guilt producing, money/resource wasting, genital mutilating, unethical law making, and causing people to make poor life choices because we are supposed to believe this life doesn’t really matter. And so on.
6.   Climate change is no more a belief than any other scientific topic. I watch videos about that just as readily as I would anything else.  What is the problem with me watching a scientist prove evolution (to an ignorant theist) or climate change (to an ignorant person in general)? My only problem is with ignorance. I can’t stand it.
7.   Is it so hard to grasp that I can be curious about things I don’t understand?  Namely, how people can be religious these days?

I have conceded that I will not watch videos about science or religion within earshot of her, and she will not bring up the topic of religion to me anymore.  I actually really hate talking about religion, as I find it a great waste of time.  Again, I just need to be on my toes in case some idiot tries to make me look stupid in front of others.

Well, what do you guys think?  Am I a bad person?  Am I mocking people with different beliefs? 

(The keyword that was keeping me from posting: g@ngbang.)
« Last Edit: November 26, 2014, 09:49:03 PM by MatCauthon »

Online Jag

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Re: ethical question/rant about ignorance
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2014, 09:30:35 PM »
What's the question?

And can I offer a suggestion regarding your wife and her desire for whatever it is she means?
"It's hard to, but I'm starting to believe some of you actually believe these things.  That is completely beyond my ability to understand if that is really the case, but things never cease to amaze me."

Offline jetson

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Re: ethical question/rant about ignorance
« Reply #2 on: Yesterday at 09:58:26 AM »
Mat - sounds like you are one of those people who literally cannot accept unfounded crap - like religions, gods, etc. Your brain is unable to accept made up shit, no matter how popular. I am the same way, I think.

I used to pretend I was "spiritual", but I was never clear on what that really meant. I got a free pass from friends and family because "spiritual" is good enough to pass the sniff test for them. I believe our brains have the capacity to accept practically anything. But I also believe there are some humans whose brains are simply not wired so openly (excuse my complete ignorance of how brains are wired, for the analogy). We just cannot accept claims that have no connection to modern knowledge and understanding - or backed by scientific consensus. We immediately place those things into fiction, or pure mythology.

The problem is that so many people are able to accept and even embrace crazy ideas - instead of logically and rationally letting them go as complete crap. Could their actually be a god that exists? In the minds of many, of course. In my mind, not a chance. It's one of the stupidest things humans have ever invented. I could of course be wrong, but who gives a shit? My being wrong is far less of a problem than the billions who propagate mythology because their minds are too weak to reject it wholesale. They seem to think it is more appropriate to accept even a little bit of the nonsense, like spirituality.

Oddly, I have to accept that I live in a world where so many people want to connect to something bigger than themselves, whatever that means. So I adopt a live and let live attitude, in general. I suppose I am also a humanist, because I put my "faith" in humanity. No matter how long it takes, or how hard it is, I believe humans can and will overcome this desire to cling to mythology in real life.

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Re: ethical question/rant about ignorance
« Reply #3 on: Yesterday at 02:31:57 PM »
And can I offer a suggestion regarding your wife and her desire for whatever it is she means?

Taking a break from homework and I need to use my brain differently for a while, so I'm going to pretend that you agreed to my offer of a suggestion.  ;D

Disclaimer: this is entirely speculative, I could be completely off-base with my thoughts on this. I'm being trained to find the "themes" that recur in people's communication, and that's what I'm trying to identify here, based on your disclosure. Feel absolutely free to disregard all of this - you know your wife, I'm just going by what you've said about the situation so this is very biased already.

It was great that we could share the natural born non-idea that there was not an invisible sky-daddy watching us...
and  a few other significant bits, like:
Quote
difficult times raising kids and moving quite a few times...

...post partum depression. 

... desire to “be spiritual.” ...quite insistent that she does not believe in any gods ...more “connected to the earth”

I'm guessing that this is more or less a stand-alone issue, but that it's showing up tangentially related to the other issue of mockery. So, one at a time.

For a lot of women, becoming a mother can change the way you see yourself within society. It may lead to a new awareness of the environment, food, education, all kinds of stuff that may impact her children that she may have previously not cared much about. That might be the case for your wife, although the "issues" she's more tuned in on could be anything, not just what I mentioned, really anything she perceives as "threatening" to her offspring.

I'm thinking she's feeling the absence of something, a something that can be satisfied by making a "connection" to something. Yes, I know, vague and frustrating as hell. I would guess that post-partum depression is a big factor - depression often includes genuine existential angst, and feelings of separation from the rest of humanity.

PURE SPECULATION FROM HERE FORWARD:

So let's assume that she is depressed, or that she is seeing the world a bit differently as a result of having been depressed, and wants to feel more a part of humanity. Kind of woo-sounding still, so let's identify this connection as "like-minded people". Given that you are non-theists living in the Bible Belt (and BTW, you have my sympathies), she may not want to go to the effort of pretending well enough to build relationships with church-going theists. If you don't have a social network that includes others with similar beliefs, she may be simply lonely[1] for a certain kind of social connection. In my experience[2], people who self-identify as "spiritual" come across as very kind people and they generally seem to be at peace with the world. If that's who they really are, who wouldn't want a few of them on our lives? If you guys are raising young kids, that may be taking so much time and energy that she isn't getting enough other interaction with people she feels "connected" to. I'm really inclined to think this is an unmet social need of some sort.

With me so far?

I can see how if the above is true, she might be upset about the rest of what you shared.

I know a lot of people who don't believe in an interactive/participating god (I seem to know a lot of people best described as agnostic with deist leanings) who think that the best way to handle other people's religious beliefs is to ignore them entirely. I get it. It irritates the crap out of me but I get it. They stop one thought too soon and don't understand why those of us who choose to speak about this make that decision.

I think they really don't quite grasp the real problems that are strongly correlated to religious belief. They either don't see, or don't want to see, the connections between religion and public policy, poverty, conflict, abuse, domination, and so on. I know many non-theists who prefer to not talk about religion at all, but they still retain the idea that religious beliefs should not be challenged because it's rude and disrespectful. Weirdly enough, it can often be about manners as much as anything - most people do not like to start or participate in conflict and see speaking against someone else's beliefs as provoking an argument. That conditioning is why most people can't just shut the door in the faces of religious solicitations - they'll overlook the rudeness of being interrupted in order to avoid being rude themselves.

I know other non-theists who seem to think that talking about the problems caused by religion actually makes things worse. They don't agree with those of us who have concluded that having noticed the connections, we have an obligation to point them out.

So, if your wife is looking for a group of like-minded people to connect with, and has not yet made the leap to seeing how deeply involved religion is in much of what is f@cking up humanity, I can see why she would object to what you described.

You do need to talk to her about it though. See if you can get to what need she trying to satisfy, beyond thinking that "spirituality" is the best answer. The answer won't be clear until you both know what the problem actually is.

I hope that helps.

You could also invite her here to read some of junebug's posts to put "spiritual people" in proper perspective.  ;)


 1. not that loneliness is insignificant or simple
 2. I'm sure we can all find an example or two of exceptions to this
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Offline MatCauthon

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Re: ethical question/rant about ignorance
« Reply #4 on: Today at 08:52:38 AM »
Mat - sounds like you are one of those people who literally cannot accept unfounded crap - like religions, gods, etc. Your brain is unable to accept made up shit, no matter how popular. I am the same way, I think.
Yeah pretty much.

Oddly, I have to accept that I live in a world where so many people want to connect to something bigger than themselves, whatever that means. So I adopt a live and let live attitude, in general. I suppose I am also a humanist, because I put my "faith" in humanity. No matter how long it takes, or how hard it is, I believe humans can and will overcome this desire to cling to mythology in real life.
My wife is one of those people that really wants to connect to something, but doesn't know what.  She is sure there is "something going on" and I have to agree, although I've been meaning to examine the evidence for a universe from nothing.

I'm thinking she's feeling the absence of something, a something that can be satisfied by making a "connection" to something. Yes, I know, vague and frustrating as hell. I would guess that post-partum depression is a big factor - depression often includes genuine existential angst, and feelings of separation from the rest of humanity.

PURE SPECULATION FROM HERE FORWARD:

So let's assume that she is depressed, or that she is seeing the world a bit differently as a result of having been depressed, and wants to feel more a part of humanity. Kind of woo-sounding still, so let's identify this connection as "like-minded people". Given that you are non-theists living in the Bible Belt (and BTW, you have my sympathies), she may not want to go to the effort of pretending well enough to build relationships with church-going theists. If you don't have a social network that includes others with similar beliefs, she may be simply lonely[1] for a certain kind of social connection. In my experience[2], people who self-identify as "spiritual" come across as very kind people and they generally seem to be at peace with the world. If that's who they really are, who wouldn't want a few of them on our lives? If you guys are raising young kids, that may be taking so much time and energy that she isn't getting enough other interaction with people she feels "connected" to. I'm really inclined to think this is an unmet social need of some sort.
 1. not that loneliness is insignificant or simple
 2. I'm sure we can all find an example or two of exceptions to this
What did you say your job was? Yeah, that’s basically the situation. Before we met, she had moved every year of her adult life, and I was in the military for a few years and made her move with me 6 times in 4 years just at a time when she wanted to settle down.  Although we are back home now for good, we have the kids to deal with, and we have realized that our friends weren’t the people we thought they were. And then there is the problem of our lifestyle, which includes healthy eating, exercise, and most importantly no drama! It is hard to find people that are actually cool about things we are into.


I think they really don't quite grasp the real problems that are strongly correlated to religious belief. They either don't see, or don't want to see, the connections between religion and public policy, poverty, conflict, abuse, domination, and so on. I know many non-theists who prefer to not talk about religion at all, but they still retain the idea that religious beliefs should not be challenged because it's rude and disrespectful. Weirdly enough, it can often be about manners as much as anything - most people do not like to start or participate in conflict and see speaking against someone else's beliefs as provoking an argument. That conditioning is why most people can't just shut the door in the faces of religious solicitations - they'll overlook the rudeness of being interrupted in order to avoid being rude themselves.
She doesn’t see it. She’s got the idea that it won’t be too long before religion is in the minority anyway and it won’t matter. She won’t say anything when it comes up in conversation unless it is “safe” in that it is one other person and they share her ideas. It annoys her that all kinds of people automatically assume that she is religious- People will say things like, “Well have you tried the church across the street for daycare? It’s really great…” and in her head she is thinking no way, but she lets them prattle on for 10 minutes. I don’t get it.  She is polite to a fault about it.

So, if your wife is looking for a group of like-minded people to connect with, and has not yet made the leap to seeing how deeply involved religion is in much of what is f@cking up humanity, I can see why she would object to what you described.

You do need to talk to her about it though. See if you can get to what need she trying to satisfy, beyond thinking that "spirituality" is the best answer. The answer won't be clear until you both know what the problem actually is.

I still don’t see what the need for a social outlet has to do with being upset about my thirst for knowledge.  And while I’d like to know what the problem is, I’m not sure how to ask the question and find out.

Even more puzzling is why she knows that all the religions are manmade and that people don’t really know what they are talking about, she gets mad when I say that I know they are wrong.  I just don’t know what I’m dealing with here. Existential angst maybe? What’s that like?

Offline jetson

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Re: ethical question/rant about ignorance
« Reply #5 on: Today at 10:21:03 AM »
Mat - my wife has told me that she believes I became "angrier" as I dove into atheism. By that, I mean once I embraced the term, and called myself atheist, she believes I have less tolerance for BS, and I am overly critical, in some cases, of people's belief systems when they are steeped in religion.

I have taken her criticism into account, and I try hard not to be too judgmental - very difficult, when my feeling is that ALL religions are based on judgment of others in some form. Christianity is the worst, IMO.

In real life, I don't talk like I do on the forums. There are some friends I have that want me to see the light, and with them, we have polite disagreements.

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Re: ethical question/rant about ignorance
« Reply #6 on: Today at 01:12:12 PM »
A good way to look at what Jetson said is this: Consciously separate your standards for yourself and your expectations of others. Especially when those expectations are assumed rather than stated. You will meet people who feel differently about this subject on a regular basis. If you are expecting that never to happen, or if you expect them to change their minds the moment they know they've upset you, you'll be one unsuccessful and pissed dude 90% of the time. Instea make sure that your expectations for yourself (seek knowledge, learn incessantly, etc.) are clear to you. And when you have expectations of others, be sure to state them just as clearly so that they will know what you expect. And don't have a conniption fit if they say no. Especially with this hot button issue.

This is good advise for most everything, and the more complex/contentious the issue, the better it works.



 

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Re: ethical question/rant about ignorance
« Reply #7 on: Today at 01:13:34 PM »
Apologies for not making the connection between the two more clear.

It may be that, from her perspective, you are setting further limits on people in the circle of friends the two of you can have. If you rule out "Bible-thumper" type theists while living in the bible belt, you've already eliminated a big swath of the available pool of friends. If she sees your current quest for knowledge as limiting your potential social network by eliminating anyone who is even vaguely theistic, AND if as you indicated, she sees herself as a polite person who is tolerant of others beliefs (even if they are mistaken), your actions are countering what she appears to be trying to find.

Short version - she may be trying to expand your existing social network and sees your choices as limiting it further. Your goal of knowledge is interfering with her goal for more "like-minded" people in her life.

jetson's wife's observations about anger and atheism is not uncommon. A lot of us go through a period of being angry (although the degree and expression varies quite a bit) as we get further removed from the idea of a god. If your wife is starting to think of spiritual people as "her" people, what you say about them will feel like you're saying it about her as well.

And this is a lot of conclusion-drawing from a small amount of information, and biased as well, since I'm only hearing your side of the story. But what the hell, that's no reason to stop offering advice, is it?  ;)

So here's a little more. When you don't understand something an important person in your life is saying or doing, you have to ask questions to figure it out. Humans WILL make assumptions and fill-in-the-blanks with assumptions, and then proceed as if those assumptions are true.[1] So when something important needs to be addressed, it's really helpful to plan for it and set aside uninterrupted time to talk about it. I know it sounds awkward but it makes a huge difference.

Let the other person know that you want to talk, so they don't feel ambushed. Some version of this: affirm the relationship, frame the problem as a shared challenge, ask for a time to talk about it. Like, "I love you and I don't want to fight about this. We seem to be struggling about how to handle other people's religious beliefs and I don't want that to be a problem between us. It seems like I'm hurting your feelings and I don't really understand why. Can we schedule some time to talk about this  one night this week after the kids are in bed?"

I know it sounds kind of weird but I swear to Darwin  ;), it works. It gives you both time to think about the "issue" so you aren't responding in the moment, and you can really think about what specifically you want to understand better. Think about open-ended questions that need more than a yes or no reply. She won't be able to answer the question "what are you trying to satisfy?" if you ask her directly, because she probably doesn't know either - she hasn't thought about it that way. You need to get her to talk about how she feels and what she wants without getting hung up on "solutions". If you can really listen to what she says, you'll start to notice common "themes" emerge, and those themes will point to the "real" issue. Ask her questions if you want to understand, don't try offering answers. Encourage her to talk. It takes time without distractions but it works wonders.
 1. Over and over, research demonstrates that deep and fundamental rifts between couples are almost always over a misunderstood communication - what someone "meant" is not what the other person "heard", and that misinterpreted communication became a huge problem because it was never corrected.
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