Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"All Christians aren't like that!"

There's something I understand better now than I used to back when I was self-identifying as a theist. I, too, was really upset that atheists were so prejudiced and bigoted and just pigeonholed any religious people they knew and assumed that if you aren't an atheist, you're an enemy. Or something.

I understand marginalization and privilege a little better now, though. Only some of it is from beginning to identify as an atheist. A lot of it's stuff I've heard from LGBT people and people of color and feminists and just... y'know, people who have experience with this stuff. Here's what I've learned about generalizing about the members (or affiliates) of organizations that hate me (or you, or someone else, or whoever).

It's hard sometimes, when someone walks up wearing the badge and uniform of one's oppressors, to assume that they don't want to be associated with the other people wearing it. It's hard for me (for example) to see someone who self-identifies as Catholic and not see an ally of the homophobia, misogyny, and just general callousness that characterizes that organization. They may not personally hate women or gays or child rape victims, but they're comfortable affiliating with an organization that plainly does, and I have to wonder at that rate whether they're true allies.

Sadly, that type of Christianity is still setting the tone in a lot of the country. While I'm supportive of the efforts of other Christians to clean up their image, I no longer feel like I should suffer at the hands of the Christian cultural system and simultaneously do their PR for them. When more Christians are like Quakers, I'll talk about them like more of them are Quakers.

I get that it's got to suck having people running around acting a fool who are using teachings from the same book as you are to do some terrible things to innocent people. It always sucks to feel like someone else has enough control over your reputation to screw with it by being bigots and just generally showing their whole ass to the world.

That's the thing, though, about continuing to wear the badge and uniform of a group that--for a lot of people--has done them nothing but personal and very tangible harm. Depending on how badly they've been hurt and for how long and how much hope they have left, they might just assume that you're an ally to the people who hurt them. They're not assuming this because they're bigoted, or bullies, or intolerant. They're assuming it because they're tired of giving chances to people who put on that uniform and then getting kicked in the face for it. So... they stop taking the risk.

I'm not quite there yet, but I've seen people get there, and it's hard for me to begrudge them. It's not hate. It's hurt, and it's weariness, and they're right. They should never have had to always be the one giving out chance after chance after chance to people who didn't take it. It's hard exhausting work, and the people I know who've given up on trying to find common ground with Christians? That's why.

So this is why I've stopped saying, "Not all straight/cis/white/etc. people are like that! Please only talk about your painful experiences in a way that protects my feelings!" and it's why I think it'd be great if Christians did, too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Things I am reading!

Obligatory mention of the attacks in Oslo.

Obviously the groups he was a member of and who were his (apparent) ideological guiding posts are appalled, you guys, just aghast and amazed that someone went out and did what they all seem to want done.

Sound familiar to you? Sounds familiar to me. Remember, kids. Every politically-motivated right-wing white murderer is an isolated case and not a real terrorist representative of any kind of trend and remember that people on the left are just as likely to gun down strangers. Right? So let's ignore the right-wingers and get back to being scared of brown Muslims.

More links!

Anders Behring Breivik was deranged, but also a serious conservative political thinker! Didn't complain enough about Jews in his manifesto, though, so Richard Spencer is going to fill in some gaps by linking to Kevin MacDonald. Can't make this shit up, guys.

The Political Ideas of Anders Behring Breivik

Okay, so. I resolved not to post anything about Amy Winehouse (because the Norway incident is obviously kind of a big deal), but this blog entry sort of made me curl up in a ball, so I judged it worthy of passing on. It's only partly about her. It's about the people like her that we can't see because there's no money in dragging them out to die in front of the world. Read it.

Yes, I’m an addict too: Why I’m no different from Amy Winehouse (H/T stoneself)

Unrelated, and in (sort of) better spirits: Scarleteen is one of the best things on the internet. I think if my hometown had had sex ed that looked more like this website, I would have seen a lot less rape and unplanned pregnancy among my peers through junior high and high school.

How You Guys -- that's right, you GUYS -- Can Prevent Rape.

It’s obviously hard for guys to really look at this stuff, but it’s also hard for women to know that rape is nearly always a crime done by men (as well as to live in a world where it’s something we are afraid of). We love the men in our lives dearly, very much want to be able to trust men, and we think of men, as a group, as our brothers. Suffice it to say, it’s also really tough for us to have to know that our actual brothers, our fathers, our boyfriends, our male friends, might be or have been rapists: it’s a terrible betrayal. So, while we women can’t personally understand, in some ways, how it’s got to feel for guys to be suspect with rape, or to know that it’s a crime almost exclusively perpetuated by a group to which you belong, in plenty of ways, we feel your pain, because men belong to at least one of our groups too: to the all-people group.

That's all I've got for now.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Just watched Agora, a movie that I heard about from the entries about it at The Wild Hunt.

I can't speak too confidently about the historical Hypatia (nor do I particularly expect this movie to do so, because it probably doesn't). Near as I can tell from totally cursory Googling on the subject, not only was Hypatia's religious affiliation not relevant to the circumstances of her death, but she herself was barely relevant. She could have been anybody sufficiently important to Orestes. He had pissed off Cyril (who was kind of a big deal at the time) and Hypatia happened to be an appealing target for a revenge killing.

So... I wanted to say first off that I'm not really inclined to believe anybody who says, "Hypatia was killed by nasty misogynist anti-intellectual Christians because she was an educated and independent Pagan!" or anybody who says, "Hypatia was killed by nasty misogynist anti-intellectual Christians because she was an educated and independent atheist!" Near as I can tell, she was killed for being there.

There's my take on the historical Hypatia. People who have actually spent some study on her will know more about her than I do, though, so if they post in the comments and say I'm wrong, y'all should probably listen to them instead of me. I just wanted to touch on the actual real person we are talking about here so that I could talk separately about Hypatia The Character In The Movie Agora.

Hypatia The Character In The Movie Agora was a total atheist, you guys. I am sort of confused and amused and a litle dismayed by how many Pagans seem to have watched this movie and thought, "Ah! Look what the Christians did to us! They always do this to us Pagans!" Bonus points if they then go on to say some bullshit about the Burning Times (when some arbitrarily-large number of totally undeniably really real actual witches were burned alive by Christians).

Movie!Hypatia got along with Pagans a great deal better than with Christians, it's true. Historically speaking, Christians have not made very good neighbors, either literally or ideologically. So yeah, she got along better with the Pagans, but that doesn't make her one.

I've been a practicing Pagan since I started giving a damn about religion at all--so since I was about ten or eleven. Just long enough to make my parents sound ridiculous when they say it's a phase (which they evidently still think it is). I went to school in a small town where parents didn't want their children talking to me because I was a servant of the devil. The school administrators saw me as a disruptive presence because of the books I read while I sat by myself at lunch, which they took and never returned. So I get it, really I do, that Pagans aren't wanted in Christian-dominated areas.

I've also been comfortable identifying as an atheist for a few years now, too. I identify with a group that was recently found to be the least trusted minority in the USA, which I find incomprehensible but hard to deny.

Every now and again I'll watch a movie that makes me feel small, and angry, and a little unsafe. The last one I watched was actually the Stepford Wives (the new one, which I actually thought was hilarious and terrifying), and now this. It wasn't because it called to memory the myth of the Burning Times, or the time when good Christian friends and neighbors taught their children to be frightened of me.

It was because we get to watch someone be cast aside by her political allies and be stoned to death by Christians because she--the character, mind you--is an unrepentant atheist and that makes her a problem. My friends and cousins with whom I share religious practice, it's not about you this time. It's about a character whose dedication to philosophy (basically equated here to "science") was considered unwomanly, ungodly, unacceptable, and unworthy of being allowed to live.

You have to twist this pretty hard to see anything but the character of Hypatia flying her atheist flag right out in the audience's faces.

CHRISTIAN: The majority of us here… have accepted Christ. Why not the rest of you? It’s only a matter of time and you know it.

HYPATIA: Really? It is just a matter of time? …As far as I am aware, your God has not yet proved himself to be more just or more merciful than his predecessors. Is it really just a matter of time before I accept your faith?

CHRISTIAN: Why should this assembly accept the council of someone who admittedly believes in absolutely nothing?

HYPATIA: I believe in philosophy.

Can't tell you how many times I or other atheists I know have had to have the "how can you not believe in anything" conversation.

Hypatia, the real woman who lived and was killed, may well have been a woman of Pagan faith. Someone better versed in the history of the woman could speak to that better than I. This character in this movie, though, is an atheist. Anybody who can ignore that is probably trying to. Is this version of her historically accurate? I wouldn't put money on it, no. But this version of her is an atheist, and it's weird to watch it after reading the reviews of Pagans who are sure it's all about them, and find myself watching a very different movie than the one they seemed to be describing.

Maybe I just wasn't watching it through their CHRISTIANS HATE US PAGANS MORE THAN ANYONE goggles. Because y'know what? They don't. They hate Pagans, all right, but not more than anyone. At least you believe in something (read: some form of deity), right? How can they trust someone who doesn't even manage that?

This is a humanist propaganda film. Say what you will about whether that's a good thing, but if you can miss that and somehow reread it as a story of Pagan persecution by the mean old monotheists, you need to watch it again and pay attention to the parts where Christians are murdered by Pagans, Pagans are murdered by Christians, Jews are murdered by Christians, Christians are murdered by Jews, more Jews are murdered by Christians, and a self-described atheist is the only one who says that they're all more like than different and have nothing to fight over so can we please talk about astronomy now kthx.

It's a humanist fantasy with a humanist martyr and Agora departs so far from history that I have to wonder how the hell all these Pagans missed its obvious agenda.