Monday, September 28, 2009

"Do we create God in our own image?"

This is the question that Butler's religion and philosophy department will be talking about on Thursday, and it's such a damn shame that I can't go because of the hours that I work. I keep getting invited to these things even though I've graduated, which I suppose means I'm still welcome.

I'm finding more and more than I'm reading people's explanations of their own theism with the same ending over and over again. I didn't fully realize what I was doing until just now, reading something that I can paste in after a bit. What I'm doing is this:

I really want to believe in some deity. I just haven't ever seen a convincing reason why I should. Here is what I was sent by the still-undeniably-awesome Father Allen.

[This is for a discussion some of us are having later in the week at “Living the Questions.” If you don’t want to wade through all of this, here are the different sections:

Opening Statement

What about “the interventionist, miracle-wreaking, thought-reading, sin-punishing, prayer-answering God of the Bible, of priests, mullahs and rabbis, and of ordinary language,” that Richard Dawkins denies?

Is such a God credible in a world that depends heavily on the methods and theories of the natural sciences?

That’s a bit abstract. Is this still the God I believe in?

But where’s the evidence?

What do I want people to do with this?

Here goes:]

Opening Statement

I keep reading the “new atheists,” people like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. I continue to find that the God they don’t believe in is not the God that I believe in. They don’t like it when people like me say that. They continue to insist that people like me don’t really believe in God, that we’re using the word “God” to mean something else, something much less than God, like just an expression of awe and reverence toward a basically uncaring universe, or else a philosophical abstraction that appeals only to a select few.

Well, sorry, but I think the God I believe in is just as “God-like” as God could be. I believe in a God who encompasses and indwells all things, who cares deeply about you and me as you and me, who constantly calls us into love and still loves us in spite of our failure to respond wholeheartedly, and who saves us from futility and oblivion. God does all this for us because God does all this for every creature.

This is not a vindictive God, but this is most definitely a God whose unconditional love stands in opposition to our failures to love unconditionally. God won’t give up on us, but God will not stop insistently luring us away from our own self-centered ways. God is relentless about that, and we may not like it. God may be infinitely loving and relentlessly alluring, but that does not make God “nice” or “convenient.”

I do not know of a concept of God that could be more “religiously” satisfying than that. I’ve heard it preached for decades and have preached it myself, and people are definitely moved by it. It may not produce mega-churches, but it enlivens many faith communities. This is much more than a philosophical abstraction.

There may be all kinds of reasons for viewing God this way, but for me the main reason arises out of the Christian practice of seeing the shape of God’s very life enacted in the life, death and risen life of Jesus of Nazareth—a God who rules the world through enduring its worst and yet refusing to be driven away, returning again and again to embrace and indwell all things and to call them into love. This is a God whose perfected power may look weak, but only to those who define power as total control (as many Christians have done and still do). It culminates in the early Christian affirmation, “God is love, and those who dwell in love dwell in God, and God dwells in them” (1 John 4:16b). Furthermore, like love, this God is not simply personal but interpersonal, as ancient trinitarian creeds struggled to say (with mixed results).

Some would call my version of God “pan-en-theistic” (not “pantheistic”—God is not simply “all things” or “the all”; God is greater than all other things, yet indwells them all, just as they indwell God). There are all sorts of panentheists, some ancient, many contemporary, so I don’t mind the label, even when I’m not sure if any particular type fits me. Labels aside, this is clearly not the all-controlling, petulant, “invisible superman” of popular theism, nor is it the currently uninvolved clock-maker of deism, nor is it modern pantheism’s expression of awe and reverence for a universe that doesn’t look especially caring.

And there is one other thing it is not—it is not a watered-down concept of God. As best I can tell, it comes closer to Anselm’s “that than which no greater can be conceived” than any other concept I’ve explored. It preaches. (I’ve been preaching it, and hearing it preached, for over 30 years.) If we’re going to debate God’s existence, why can’t we debate the existence of this God? That hardly ever happens, and, frankly, I’m baffled.

What about “the interventionist, miracle-wreaking, thought-reading, sin-punishing, prayer-answering God of the Bible, of priests, mullahs and rabbis, and of ordinary language,” that Richard Dawkins denies?

That God is a caricature of the God I believe in, who encompasses and indwells all things and draws them relentlessly into love. And that Bible is a caricature of the Bible I read and the critical methods I’ve been taught (by observant Christians!) to help me read it. But the God I believe in does seem to be what the writers of the Bible, the priests, mullahs and rabbis were trying to portray in ordinary language of their times and worldviews (which were at least as conflicted as ours). They were, I believe, speaking in grossly anthropomorphic terms about their own awareness of a presence too elusive to describe in everyday terms. Many of them did admit that the language they used was far from adequate.

They were convinced that what they did mattered, what happened to them mattered, that sometimes wonderfully good things happened, and that other times dreadfully bad things happened. And they related all of this to a universally responsive presence which, it at least seemed, was summoning them to speak and act.

They believed that this presence, God, cared for them constantly and responded to them constantly, refusing to let them create God in their own conflicted images. And yes, in working through all that, they often made God look like an immature, sometimes abusive, monarch or parent or spouse. It’s dangerous to quote them out of context, and disheartening that anybody would want to!

But that does not mean that they were not responding to something utterly real and active, nor does it mean that people who still talk that way today are not responding to something utterly real. It just means that people often do a disastrous job of articulating what’s really happening, though of course that’s my view, and evaluation, of why so many still prefer to talk of God in that way.

Is such a God credible in a world that depends heavily on the methods and theories of the natural sciences?

I believe so. In fact, this concept fits remarkably well with many views of the universe that have been inspired by a variety of current scientific theories. These views, like belief in God, go beyond what could be tested by experimental methods. They’re invitations to view all of reality, somewhat figuratively, in terms of some part of reality. As such, they can never be proved or disproved decisively, but there are still observations, experiences, facts, and accepted theories that can count for or against them.

For example, the natural sciences have, I think, made it more difficult, more of a “stretch,” to view the universe as simply a result of miniscule, inert particles bumping into each other like billiard balls. “Subatomic particles” are not particles, and they don’t interact like particles either.

They have also made it more difficult to view the universe as a machine that runs only in predetermined patterns like a clock. Machines, after all, are human artifacts. The universe is not.

True, the natural sciences have also made it increasingly difficult to imagine how there might be any disembodied “stuff” like minds or spirits or souls that could exist independently of bodies. But I don’t have a problem with that, since even the Bible never fully bought into that view of things. “Soul” may simply be a heuristic term for lives that are always embodied in some way or other.

In any case, for the time being, at least, the natural sciences have made it relatively easy to view the universe as a vast network of centers of activity which follow predictable patterns without being fully predetermined—from subatomic “particles” (again, they’re not really particles any more) to complex molecules to cells to organisms to animals to people to … well, who knows what else? Some of these centers of activity (like you and me) are more inclusive than others, and more responsive too.

If that view of the universe is credible, then it is no great stretch of the imagination to consider that there may well be a universally responsive presiding center of activity. Some have even argued that viewing the universe this way requires us to presume that such a center of activity exists. It’s a reasonable argument, but not an airtight one. Others have argued that presuming the existence of such a center of activity would make it easier to make sense of the fact that, despite there being so many other centers of activity, with all their unpredictability, we don’t have utter chaos. That too seems a reasonable argument, without being airtight.

Note: The existence of considerable chaos, conflict and unpredictability is only to be expected in a universe with innumerable centers of activity. It does not count against a universally responsive presiding center of activity. It would count against a universally controlling center of activity (which is one popular idea of God), but that is not what we are considering here. The famous “problem of evil” arises only for people who equate power with control, and thus greater power with greater control. But what if perfect power is not perfect control?

That’s a bit abstract. Is this still the God I believe in?

Maybe not yet. When I say God cares for me deeply, that’s saying a great deal more than “a universally responsive presiding center of activity responds to me.” But this is starting to sound a great deal like the God I believe in. It responds to and presides over me and all that I do as a lesser center of activity who also responds to and presides over still lesser centers of activity (like the cells that make up my body). That’s not the same as caring deeply about me or loving me or saving me from oblivion. BUT it’s consistent with all that.

And it’s more than just consistent. It provides a framework for me to take more seriously those moments in my life when I sense that I am never alone, that I am loved beyond the love of friends or family or self, that what happens to me, or to you, or even to an electron, matters immeasurably in the whole scheme of things, that there is an intimate presence in my life that I didn’t produce. I don’t have to rule these moments out in advance, as Freud or Dawkins might, as pitiable illusions. And it is because of moments like these (call them moments of revelation) that I can use more concrete imagery when talking about a universally responsive presiding center of activity.

It also helps me to take more seriously the conviction that I and many scientists and philosophers share that our efforts to understand the world and ourselves are more than just incidental byproducts of unthinking, self-replicating mechanisms (like Dawkins’s memes, maybe?). I don’t have to explain the quest for understanding away as a pitiable illusion either. (Freud and Dawkins don’t do that, but I’m not sure how they manage to avoid it.)

Frankly, I do not know of a more intellectually satisfying way to look at things than this one. The fact that it’s also emotionally, ethically and religiously satisfying is all the more reason to keep living by it.

But where’s the evidence?

I think I’ve already addressed that, but I know somebody is still going to say that my believing in this God is just as unwarranted as believing in flying saucers or the Loch Ness monster (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster). Why can’t we go out and observe God in God’s native habitat?

But God isn’t the sort of thing you can go out and observe. In fact, God isn’t the sort of thing you need to go out and observe. A universally responsive presiding center of activity would already be here, waiting, if you will, to be noticed. We’re already in God’s native habitat.

I do however say “noticed,” not “observed.” Strictly speaking, you just can’t observe something that is both all-encompassing and all-pervading. It’s both too vast and too intimate to be observed—both at once. To observe something, you have to get some distance from it. If God exists, we won’t be able to get that kind of distance. It’s like trying to observe myself. I can notice myself when I’m observing something else. I can be aware of myself, but strictly speaking, I can’t observe myself. The same applies to God, who, according to Augustine and many contemplative folk, is nearer to me than I am to myself.

Admittedly, God is not as noticeable as we are to ourselves, but that’s partly because, unlike you or me, God’s intimacy is as boundless as God’s vastness. And it’s already tricky enough just keeping track of ourselves! (Try doing it the next time you’re in a heated argument.) If we don’t notice God, that may simply be because we’re not paying enough attention to what’s happening around and in and through us. Or maybe we’ve already bought into a view of reality that encourages us to discount certain features of our experience—like people who can’t admit how much their feelings and concerns shape their thinking and observations.

I believe, in other words, that we can “find” God, not by going out and looking, but by paying more attention to what is already happening right here and at least considering whether there might be noticeable aspects of what’s happening that would be less puzzling if we saw them as responses to a universally responsive presiding center of activity. We begin to know God in the only way such a reality can be known—not by observation, not by logical inference, not by “blind faith,” but by reflective participation in an inescapable reality. And that knowledge is never more than a beginning.

In a way, asking “Does God exist” is like asking “Do subjects exist.” By “subjects” I mean whatever it is about you and me that makes us more than just objects. I mean whatever it is about you and me that makes it crucial to keep distinguishing between what we observe and who does the observing, even when we try to observe ourselves. I mean that “I” statements and “you” statements can never be replaced by “it” statements, not just because it would be inconvenient, but because we’d be missing something real (even if it is, as I suspect, inseparable from some sort of embodiment—a subject is not the same as a disembodied soul or spirit). If any part of what we observe exists, can observers be any less real, or any less crucial to giving a full account of reality?

If you ask me “Where’s the evidence for subjects?” I can’t point to observations or experiments. Deciding whether subjects exist is a matter of deciding how we are going to view the lives we are already living. We already have more “data” for this than we will ever be able to absorb. This is a question of how to view all of reality in a way that does not discount the reality and integrity of the viewer. We begin to know subjects by reflective participation in an inescapable reality.

Similarly, if you ask me about evidence for God, I can only point to the lives we are already living and how we view them. And all I can say is that a panentheistic view of our lives so far has allowed me to honor and integrate far more aspects of my life than any other view. That conclusion can be challenged very easily. Just try reading some current Buddhist philosophers. But the only pertinent challenges would be, like Buddhist philosophy, on the whole-scale terms of how we view the lives we are already living. It’s never a matter of isolated observations. It’s ongoing, reflective participation. And it’s always a beginning, not a final solution.

What do I want people to do with this?

Mainly this: if we’re going to debate God’s existence, could we at least debate the existence of this one? None of the “new atheists” I’ve read deal with this concept of God—nor do they deal with the kinds of reasons that would be relevant to deciding whether this sort of God really exists. There’s plenty of room for debate, if they would just make room for it. I suspect they avoid it because it’s easier to make other concepts of God look stupid or irrelevant.

I’m not looking for quick agreements here. Obviously, I would be delighted if people decided that they could fully embrace this kind of theism. When it comes to how we view our lives, and their contexts, in their full concreteness and entirety, who doesn’t want more company?

But this is such a self-involving subject that I don’t expect that much unanimity. So I think I would be just as delighted if people first saw this as an occasion to consider that there may be other, more inclusive ways to honor and integrate all the aspects of our lives as we take note of them. I mainly want people to be as honest as they can be about everything they are undergoing. I am more concerned about that than I am about the conclusions they are drawing at any point in their lives.

That’s partly because of what I already believe about God, of course. Without claiming infallible inspiration, I’m brash enough to say that God is likewise more concerned about our honesty and integrity than anything else, and that God is honored even when some of us still wonder if such a God exists. God wants us to grow into love, but we can’t do that without honesty and integrity. We would still be responding affirmatively to God’s promptings, even if we could not in good conscience say that we are.

So keep paying attention to every aspect of your life. Be as honest as you can about all of it. If God is there to be delighted, God will be delighted. And so will I.

I don't get it. Father Allen is an awesome guy, and I'll never say he's not an intelligent or thoughtful sort. I'm just not sure what he's bending himself over backwards and twisting himself into logical knots to accomplish. It seems like the answer to the question of, "If you're right and nobody believes in a God that we can pretty much prove doesn't exist, what now?" is to redefine his terms and start all over again.

"Oh, well, that's not my God. My God doesn't do things or make claims that could be disproven by observing his/her/its hypothetical effect on material reality. My God just loves me."

What does he do when you need more than love? Sometimes, in some places, some people need more than love. They need help. They need something or someone who loves them to be effectual about it. What then?

I just don't get it. I keep coming back to this. I'd love to get back on board with this whole theism thing, but if these are the best arguments around... they're gonna have to do better than:
* changing the definition of God to one that is more insistently difficult to disprove, but also more completely empty of significance or distinctiveness
* claiming that science can't observe God, even as theists try to placate and convert skeptics, and even as theists leap on every scientific study that does feel supportive (see how excited people who don't believe science knows everything will get about studies about the "power of prayer")

I just don't get it. It's not that I have this huge disgust for theists and that I think they should all cut out of their lives something which is clearly still included for a reason. It's that I wish they would stop acting like that reason has anything to do with "proof" as the experimenting world understands it, you know?

Sunday, September 27, 2009


So, this guy who goes by "Cuttlefish" has a habit of replying to comment threads in verse, and near as I can tell has become something of a legend around ScienceBlogs for this gift.

Check out his reply to someone's tips to atheists on how they ought to critique Christians so that they won't seem so mean.

Props to mothwentbad for linking this. I wasn't watching Cuttlefish's journal, and really ought to have been.

That fear thing


You know... I tried to explain once to someone that the reason it's a douche move to make sexual advances on women who aren't interested isn't merely that it's stepping on the toes of whatever man has a claim to her. It's that it's treating a woman as though her chief value is as a potential mate--if not to you then to someone (regardless of her personal feelings in the matter, because a mate doesn't need feelings, just a serviceable cunt)--and no, god damn you that is not the same as lawyers and doctors being "prized" husbands.

It matters when men treat women that way because men have social power that women don't. Yes, I realize that this is a hard thing to think about as a man who would not want a woman to feel pushed around or bullied by him. Yes, I realize that this might be hard to understand for a guy who doesn't have to deal with any of it personally.

I just wish I could explain certain kinds of fear to people like that in some way that would be effective without oversharing, without opening up in ways that'd make me vulnerable to new angles of insinuation. The idea is to draw boundaries, not to get closer. Strong women get scared, too, but that doesn't mean we should have to air it all around to people who can't be trusted, just to make a point.

There are guys who don't understand this but at least know they don't understand. There are guys who've never felt afraid to walk home alone at night, but are at least willing to take a woman's word for it when she says it's not a good idea.

Then there are those guys who hear a woman mention that she's scared of men, that she feels she's in danger from them, and they get all offended like she's being unreasonable and sexist and bigoted and isn't that just like a white person saying that black people are a threat to them and that's just not fair to generalize about all men that way!

Because they don't understand that most women resist feeling that way. It doesn't make us feel superior to admit that men scare us shitless sometimes. It doesn't make us feel like we're of a higher order. I can't speak for anyone else, but it makes me feel weak and bitter and I hate it. I wish I could believe that I live in a different world than I do solely for my own peace of mind, but that would be absolute fucking insanity.

No woman likes thinking or feeling these things! We've just--somehow or other, over a long period of time or a short one--finally found inescapable the fact that men in many cultures are trained to hurt us, that according to messages in our culture that most men don't even think about they are entitled to hurt us, and that we're the ones who'll be blamed if one of them finally eventually does.

That's the thing that always gets me. This fear is such a nightmare precisely because no woman I know wants to feel this way, to live this way. But it's the only way to fucking survive this culture--to be aware and even if it means constant terror being on guard absolutely all the time because women really are not safe.

For most guys, assault (and therefore all things that might hurt a woman) is a terrible thing that they shouldn't do, nothing more or less. But they're so busy not thinking about themselves as "the kind of guy who'd do that" that they're afraid to see it in the men around them, either. And then they become part of the problem.

In case we needed any more proof that men who can't stand to think for too long about what it must be like to walk around in life as a woman are part of the problem, I give you this particular guy's response to me attempting to teach him that women are socially/culturally subordinated to men in a way that actually does disadvantage them yes it does, yes it does, you son of a bitch, quit shaking your head at me.

"I'm glad I don't live in your world." And a disappointed shake of his head. Stupid woman. Her soft emotional woman-brain has created a nightmare world in which crazy things happen which can't possibly be true. So glad he doesn't live in that nightmare.

He may be glad, but I refuse to believe that any good friend or decent human being would hear someone talk about the ways in which they're forced to lead a less-satisfying life and respond with that horseshit. I refuse to believe that anybody who cares what kind of world the people he suppposedly cares about are living in would respond to the difference with, "I'm glad I don't live in your world," like I've described some kind of insane schizophrenic horror in which all men are Evil Kitten-Eating Reptilians from Outer Space, and how terrible it must be to go through life thinking such a silly thing.

As cernowain said at the time, "Oh... I wish you hadn't said that. Because we all live in the same world."

Because Cern gets it, god damn it. We're all living in the same world. It's just that some of us can ignore huge chunks of it because blindness to the suffering of others is comforting, and if a thing is comforting, it must be worth believing, and if it's worth believing, it must be true. Never mind the people you could help but won't because you don't have the sack to even fucking look at them or what hurts them.

When one man on the street makes a comment to me, or stares at me, or makes kissy noises at me, or gods forbid walks a little too close to me, I check two things: I check to make sure there's only one of him, and I check in a store window afterward to make sure he's not following me, or following me with a friend or two. That's my immediate reaction.

I don't think, "Gee, what a lovely compliment he is paying to my outfit and hairstyle which I clearly worked hard on as a mating display for the benefit of onlookers who prefer decorative females." I think, "How many? Where? Am I being followed? If so, how far is it to my destination and could I make it if I had to run?"

But never mind that. Obviously the necessity of such thinking is all in my head. Obviously I'm living in some kind of horrible estrogen-fed madness.

Part of the problem. If a man can believe that women he knows don't have valid complaints about misogyny simply because it makes him feel better to believe it, he's part of the problem. He's part of the problem because he has effectively put the sanctity of his own comforting illusions above the sanity and safety of the women in his life.

Which is a hell of a set of priorities for someone who doubtless thinks of himself as being too smart to be sexist.

It'd be nice if this particular brand of idiocy weren't so fucking common, but then again... if it weren't so common, we'd all be living in a very different sort of world, wouldn't we?


Monday, September 21, 2009


Place we canvassed today kind of pissed me off, because I was supposed to walk back to our pickup point along about a quarter of a mile of totally unlit suburb and unlit country road. A couple male coworkers met me along the way and I had a big fucking stick that I'd picked up early in my shift, but it still kind of freaked me out.

Then I found out on our ride home that Martinsville is apparently a huge Klan haven in Indiana. Which explained why the other burb went to Greencastle instead. One of our canvassers is black. According to one coworker, in a place like Martinsville and when it's getting dark now before we finish at nine, "he'd be dead."

And you know what? First off, it just burns me that there are places like this that my employer just straight-up has to make sure his black canvassers do not go. Secondly, if people in Martinsville are that fucking hateful and violent... is a woman alone all that much safer there than a black guy?

The most frightening thing about racist people, at least to me, is not how deeply and insanely they are capable of feeling and acting upon hate. It's how nice they seem when they're talking to a white girl. It's how fucking friendly and fucking concerned for my goddamned safety they are in a town where those very same people would string me right the fuck up if I weren't the same color they are.

God damn this place. I never want to canvass there again. Night left me feeling like shit. As my partner said, "I'm sorry. I know it's not my fault, but in a cold and impersonal universe that will never apologize, somebody should."

To every person of color I know and to every white person with a conscience, please accept my apology on behalf of this fucked-up universe we live in.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ah, the Bible-beaters. They're back!

"You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." --Anne Lamott

So... Westboro Baptist Church is at it again, and this time in Indianapolis. On 09/24/2009, here's what they've got posted for their itinerary. I won't link the page where these times are listed, since it contains a lot of awful and potentially-triggering idiocy. Here are the bare bones:

1:15 PM - 1:45 PM 238 S. Meridian

2:10-2:40 6701 Hoover Rd

2:55-3:30 1801 E 86th St (N. Central HS)

These people are so venomous and heinous that other countries have decided they're not allowed out of America. As if they belong HERE, either...

I wouldn't necessarily suggest a counter-protest, because it's probably far better if they feel like they wasted their time coming to a city that didn't even know they were here. People who see WBC shaming our country might get some context from it for what LGBT people put up with if nothing else.

If you really feel called to counter-protest, try and collect a few dollars while you're there for the campaign to preserve equal marriage rights in Maine.

Look at Westboro Baptist Church, and tell me if you can afford not to give so that LGBT people can have support from decent human beings when they need it. LGBT people see this shit all the time, and frankly... so do straight people. It's just easier for us to ignore it than it is for the people who're being told that God hates them.

If anybody can find other charities for LGBT people in Indianapolis who are having to look at WBC while they're just trying to live their lives, please let me know so that I can include them here. I just had trouble finding much beyond IndyPride and for this city.

List of places you should help out if you want to see something good happen instead of more bad shit:

No on One: Protect Maine Equality.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

List of the Five Best Gay Charities according to

You may not think you can afford to give. But we're talking about very basic human rights here. If you think you can afford not to, I'd like to know what the hell you are spending your money on. Give something small, but get involved. Do something.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I think copperstewart has the right of it.

I've got nothing against principled outbursts. Indeed, I encourage them and wish our US Congress looked a bit more like PM's question-an-answer period in the British Parliament.

But "Joe" Wilson is a racist with a long history and questionable involvements, and it looks to me like the Obama + immigration context was just too much for an old cracker to bear.

14 Things You Need to Know About Obama Heckler, Rep. Joe Wilson
That's pretty much what I'm feeling right now. I think that if someone actually is a liar, we should call them liars, and our unwillingness to do so for the sake of "civility" has resulted in Republicans telling outrageous lies about LGBT people, undocumented migrants, women, science, Jesus, and damn near every other topic of relevance in our culture. But Rep. Wilson has a serious case of pot and kettle syndrome if he's calling the President a liar for accurately describing the health care reform plans being tossed about.

(And as a side note, I don't think it would be a problem if undocumented migrants were covered by public insurance instead of having to rack up everyone else's bills with their ER visits, and I am incredibly pissed that my tax dollars wouldn't be going to pay for the abortions of women who need them. Also, yada yada fight cap and trade because coal companies don't deserve a bailout and other miscellaneous issues on my mind lately that I haven't been blogging about as diligently as I should.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

"Reverse Racism"

God damn it, white people. Stop talking about how POC have this huge advantage over you. Equating the baggage that comes with "nigger" and the baggage that comes with "cracker" is comparing apples to rocket ships. Even if white people and POC are equally racist individually, there are still more white people and white people have more money, which means that POC experience far more racism than white people.

Which means their experiences are not equivalent. Any white person who says otherwise is devaluing the completely-justified anger of those who--as a rule--have it harder than they do. And that's just a shitty thing to do.

Seriously. When a POC calls you a nasty name, it isn't the same as when you call them a nasty name. Do you know why? Because POC don't determine how you're treated. POC don't draw the lines around your life determining what you're able and not able to do. POC don't have power over you, which means that they can't ever swing the hammer quite as hard as you can--as hard as you have probably done without even thinking about it.

This is why a gay man calling a straight man a "breeder" isn't as bad as a straight man calling a gay man a "faggot." This is why a woman telling a sexist joke isn't as damaging as a man telling a sexist joke, even though they're both probably committing similar errors of stereotyping and generalizing. They aren't the same because even if the principle is similar... the damage isn't even comparable.

Why is this so fucking hard to understand. I'm so scared that I was this stupid before I started thinking about racism, that I was allowed to be this stupid. I sure hope not.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An amusing quote about D&D alignments.

Ganked from this forum thread.

You Are Not Good. And Your Mom is Not Good.
"I have made mistakes in my life, but basically I think I'm a good person."

I'm sorry, but you are not a Good person. You go through your life, you don't stab anyone in the face, you don't break any laws, you don't take pictures of naked children, and… so what? You want a medal for that? Shut up.

The sad fact of the matter is that if you aren't exerting yourself for a cause, if you aren't exerting yourself for something, you aren't Good. You probably aren't Evil, but seriously: get over yourself. Before you can really get into the mind of a Good character you honestly have to come to terms with the fact that you, as a person, are probably Neutral. Your character is a much better person than you are.

The reverse is also true for villains, and should come as no surprise to people who play Evil characters, since most people don't consider themselves Evil. Characters are generally much more than the players who play them. Villains are blacker, heroes are nobler, and when you play one of those characters you should come to terms with that. Even though it probably hurts you a little bit to contemplate it, if you're going to even try to play a Good character you need to play them as a much better person than you personally are.
And this, people, is why most commoners are described as "neutral" or "lawful neutral" or "chaotic neutral." Nitpicking about the alignment system aside (and someone will post with it, so I'm acknowledging you in advance), this says something about people in general that sometimes needs saying. Everybody likes to think they're doing their best, and everyone wants to think this makes them an okay person.

But that's a different kind of "good" person than the kind of person who's risking something important for the sake of the prodding of their consciences. An abortion clinic bomber has more reason to believe in his/her D&D-classified "goodness" than most people, whether most people would agree or not. At least they've decided what they believe and are doing something about it, even if I occasionally wish an adventuring party would storm their evil black towers of misogynist self-righteous dickery.

To put it Walter's way, "Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, but at least it's an ethos."