You think you have it all worked out, you think you have your faculties in check, you think you have your emotional responses under control...and then something pops up to blow the lid on that whole damned affair...
To begin, I maintain a collection of books and media for two separate organizations here in central Iowa - 'Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers' and 'Humanists of Iowa', sister organizations affiliated in common secular cause. As such, it is fitting for me to have a modest understanding of the works I curate so that I can more accurately represent them to the communities I serve.
One of the means I'm currently employing to facilitate this better awareness is the use of book discussions held by both groups. Currently there is a Humanist book club, just begun, meeting twice a month, which is reading 'The Righteous Mind' by Jonathan Haidt. And just recently there was an aborted attempt to have a book discussion on 'The End of Faith' by Sam Harris on the IAF side.
Then, of course, there's the tried and true method of reading and watching things on my own time for which I've been paying a bit of attention in recent days. In particular, I've been watching the DVD's we have in stock that I've not yet viewed -
-Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson - Is Christianity GOOD for the world?
-8: The Mormon Proposition - Equality for Some
-Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial (PBS Nova)
Now I probably should have known better than to expect that I would watch these three DVD's and come out of the experience with a normal pulse and blood pressure... That said, though, Collision wasn't nearly as infuriating as I had expected it to be. Sure, the religious guy kept going on in ways that made me roll my eyes, but Hitchens with all his eloquence, intelligence and calm made up for it.
As far as 8 and Judgement Day are concerned, though, any calm I took out of Collision was negated almost instantly. For those who don't know, 8 is a documentary/commentary on the efforts of the Mormon Church to enshrine bigotry into California law with the passage of Proposition 8. And Judgement Day is a reflection on the Dover, Pennsylvania Intelligent Design trial from about a decade ago.
If you don't know about these two pieces of history, your diligence as a secularist is lacking and I urge you to correct this oversight. Both of these documentaries illustrate just how far religious people are willing to go to inject their dogma back into the social fabric of our nation. These insidious tactics can't be allowed to bear fruit if the future of our secular society is to be maintained.
Now, to bring it back to point a notch, Haidt's book Righteous Mind is apparently about trying to explain why people are so stuck in their dogmatic ways that they refuse to listen and see things from another angle, especially if that angle is in direct contradiction to their beliefs. I further glean from what I've heard that the book also goes into urging reasonable people to have compassion for these 'righteous' minded individuals such that a lasting dialogue can be attained.
Well...based on what I heard coming out of the mouths of the Fundies while watching 8 and Judgement Day, all I can say is FUCK THAT, Mr. Haidt. Granted, I've only read the first chapter but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to take anything from the book that makes me look kindly on these christian fucks who insist, quite adamantly, that society bow to their vision of reality. Listening to these bigoted and anti-intellectual viewpoints doesn't help me in any way to empathize with the 'other side' of this culture war in which I find myself embroiled. If anything, it inspires me to thoughts of violent retribution for these slights of reason.
I know full well that it's a bit of a contradiction on my part to claim to be a rationalist and then also admit that I want to hurt people who constantly try to dominate the culture with their religious bullshit, but it is what it is and I might as well own up to it. Forgiveness isn't something for which I am particularly adept and my willingness to meet these bigoted fucks halfway will never see the light of day. Maybe that's a failing on my part but I foresee that these people will be the ruin of us all if they are allowed to thrive.
I'll close now with a bit of an anecdote about our most recent Sunday Meetup. It was a bit unusual owing to the fact that roughly half the people who showed up were either newbies or infrequent participants. Generally our social gatherings are composed of IAF members who participate regularly. This time, though, we had a religious guy show up intent on 'listening' to people with whom his doctrine disagrees.
Now, of course, he fully admitted who he was and what he was there for but it didn't help matters because he basically contravened the unspoken dictates of reason that say you don't go where you're obviously not wanted and tell people things they obviously don't want to hear. I mean, he certainly wouldn't have liked one of us showing up at his church services and claiming things that run counter to his doctrine.
Anyway, he got into a back and forth with our resident bible expert about this that and the other thing, raising what appeared to be the most common objections a fundie would have to a secular world view, at least as near as I could tell. This exchange started to piss people off a bit so a few of us broke out a set of Yahtzee dice and played a few hands to drown out the bullshit coming from Fundie-ville. After a while he got up to leave and shook everyone's hand on the way out...at least he tried to shake mine but I barely acknowledged him as he did so.
Now, we've had religious people come before and participate but never with an agenda to basically spew contrary nonsense. Generally they've understood that IAF social events are not a time for debate but a time for secularists to meet and gel with their own kind. Part of why I joined up was so that I could partake of this benefit. I certainly didn't join up because I was dying to hear more bullshit from some fundie trying to inject himself where he didn't belong in the first place. I've had that all my life and I'm not going to tolerate it with a smile ever again.
So, to sum up, I have a lot of contempt for religious people, particularly the persistent kind, and I have a lot of growing to do before I can ever meet these people half way. Watching and reading the literature and media serves quite well in reminding me of my emotional inadequacies but it also serves to remind me that my senses of justice and reason inform me that these people must be opposed, at all costs if necessary, lest they run roughshod over the culture and destroy any chance we, as a species, have of ever over-coming the irrational tendency that is religion.
This institution has had thousands upon thousands of years to get this thing we call the human condition right and it has failed to meet that challenge at every turn. It's high time we move on to something better to inform our view of reality...even if getting there means violently opposing those who would deny us our basic dignity as human beings, should it come to that. It's probably wrong of me to advocate such a thing but I've been contemplating the problem of evil of late and I see no solution for it that doesn't, in some way, involve something distasteful. I hope I never have to see this realized but if it does...c'est la vie. I certainly wont shed a tear if a few bigoted fucks get trampled in the process.
Clarification: The use of the phrase "Problem of Evil" is not meant to refer to the classic argument of the same name, but rather to the general issue of evil existing in the world.