Sunday, 11 March 2012

"Those to Whom it Matters Most"

One more article before I get to work.

In "Gay rights and religion are not opposed to one another," Petra Davis begins by talking about the false binary that much of the same-sex marriage debate has formed:
Lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are as diverse, culturally, as any other group, with many from faith communities among the throng. Gay columnists are quick to deploy generalisations about religious abuse, with little regard for those with complex cultural, sexual and gender identities. If the debate were led by those to whom it matters most - LGBT people of faith - it might well look significantly different.

She moves quickly from this topic to the other issues around which LGBT people might want to organize: say, mental illness or homelessness in the LGBT community. These seem to be more pressing issues that equal marriage rights. Why are they not being addressed? By the end of the article she becomes a bit alarmist--I'm not sure I would want to use the phrase "a new queer fascism"--but barring the final paragraph, it's a good read.

A few disconnected thoughts: the LGBT people of faith may not be leading the conversation because, by now, their voices are thoroughly overwhelmed. I do not imagine that they can speak easily in their religious communities (though that's changing); I don't know enough about LGBT circles, but I imagine there might be silencing there, as well. So asking why the conversation is not being led by them strikes me as a little naive: they have good reason of fearing being outed (as queer or as religious) to either community. But we should also try to avoid the "silent victims" trope, which can re-enforce their victimhood and cast us (whoever we are) as necessary saviours for them. (Avatar, Dances with Wolves, The Blind Side, The Help, etc. etc.)

And perhaps the focus is on marriage rights because those are easier to fix than homelessness, mentall illness, and so forth. It has clear victory conditions. Focusing on the Marriage Front allows one to identify enemies (those who oppose legislation) and easily select tools (lobbying, legal-drafting, etc.) to win that campaign. The other arenas are more serious, but finding out who is blocking you and selecting the best means to acheive your goals are a lot harder when you're combatting increased incidents of mental illness in LGBT people. That daunting (and less clearly adversarial) campaign makes it difficult to draw media attention, financial backers, and public support. It also involves other categories of oppression (ie. mental illness, neurotypicality), which makes delineating your "sides" a lot harder.

"You have betrayed Atheism. Go to the other side and die."

This article, "The God wars," by the agnostic Bryan Appleyard, says little that is new to me about the deeply-entrenched problems of the neo-atheist movement, but it's still nice to here an agnostic say it.
It was in the midst of this that Fodor and the cognitive scientist Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini published What Darwin Got Wrong, a highly sophisticated analysis of Darwinian thought which concluded that the theory of natural selection could not be stated coherently. All hell broke loose. Such was the abuse that Fodor vowed never to read a blog again. Myers the provocateur announced that he had no intention of reading the book but spent 3,000 words trashing it anyway, a remarkably frank statement of intellectual tyranny.


What comes through occasionally in this article, though I wish it came through more, was the degree to which neo-atheism, as much as it seems to support philosophical terms and tools, is in fact deeply anti-philosophical. Indeed, much of the movement seems to be based on a misunderstanding of the rationalist-empiricist split (Hume's fork), a paradox bound up in the name "rational materialism". (That is, we cannot safely reason about empirical data, and we have no empirical basis for that which we can safely reason about. Mathematicians haven't seemed worried about this, but philosophers of mathematics are, and for good reason: there isn't yet a flawless logical bridge between reason--that is, pure math--and empiricism--that is, scientific application of math.)

I also would like to see more commentary on the problems of neo-atheism and gender. This past summer it seems that the atheist blogosphere figured out that Dawkins is sexist (his sexism is quite clear in The God Delusion--he implicitly suggests that the problem with burkhas is that men can no longer see the women--so I'm not sure how it took so long to figure that out), and I think this needs more discussion by the non-religious.

But, all-in-all, I liked this article. Maybe I'll read more of the Bryan Appleyard guy.

(Thanks to the Pittsford Perennialist for the link.)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Penguins

If you ever want to watch some penguins live online, I've got just the thing for you:

http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/frozen-planet/penguin-cam/

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Lenten Sonnets (Second Post)

This will be the third religious post in a row. I try to avoid that, since I know I do have some non-religious readers (and readers for whom reading about religion might be boring, which may not have the same members as the former group). But anyway, here's another sonnet, one that is maybe more accurate in sentiment than the previous one I posted.

3

And when you fast, he said, do not look dreary,
Like hypocrites, for they deform their faces
To show the world that they with fast are weary;
They have received at least their promised places.
And when you fast, put oil upon your head,
And wash your face, so that your fast may not
Be seen by others, by the Father read
Alone, who will reward you with your lot.
But God, complaint is my preferred expression;
Moaning is my wine, griping my bread.
I publicize my woes as harsh oppression
And groan until the time of fast has fled.
I ask you, God, to turn my pouts to graces
And fashion patient psalms from painful traces.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Lenten Sonnets (First Post)

This Lent I am supposedly writing a sonnet for each day. I say supposedly because I haven't been very good lately. I can still catch up though--I might do that this Saturday. At any rate, as a bit of motivation to continue this practice, I will post one that I wrote last year up here. My attempt last year failed horribly, so I'm using the few I did write as a bit of a buffer. This is the second in my sequence so far.

2

This fasting is a desert we escape
Into together; we, like Jacob, walk
The sandy paths of penitence and ape
Our loss amidst the plains of ash and chalk.
The Promised Land, our distant Canaan, lies
Out there, ahead, a season’s journey hence;
Invisible beyond the rocks and sky,
Oasis lost among mirages dense.
But that the Lord once met temptation here,
This waste would not be sacred; by walking we
Do consecrate this barrenness each year
And shape from dust cathedrals bare and free.
In wilderness we make a stony altar
Which will both fast and wand’ring faster alter.
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