12/10/2006

To Abby XXXX:

Sadly, while I now remember the episode that you were talking about, I do not have the post. I asked some of my friends if they remembered what the post said, but they to have forgotten. So if you ask me it sounds like you come out ahead because: 1- it was apparently a very forgettable post. 2- I feel like I owe you a post. 3- I used to be a lot angrier. So I am going to write on that experience again. It won’t be the same, but hopefully that means it will be better.

It is very difficult for a person to change who they are. This is where the old adages like, “A tiger never changes its stripes,” come from. As an example, in high school, I was a total jock. I think I graduated with more gym credits than science credits. Since I graduated about ten years ago, I have lived in 15 different places. Of those fifteen times, there were five different times when I started completely over. I went to a place where I did not know anybody. Every time, when I started meeting new people, I was known as the jock. To this day, my fiends think of me as a jock. They joke about it because we are all nerds, but I am still the jock. This is not a comment on my friends; it is a comment on me. I know how to be the jock. It is comfortable for me to be the jock. Even though I have had many opportunities to reinvent myself, I come back to being the jock.

Now you are probably wondering what this has to do with what was written on the other blog, which was the initial point of your inquiry. In today’s America, while racism and sexism are still alive, they are not acceptable in the majority of society. Being labeled a racist or sexist would be hurtful to most people. However, there is another form of prejudice that is not only growing, it is being encouraged by the media, government, and I believe, even in many schools. I call it beliefism. It is a prejudice against people who do not share your same beliefs. I am not referring here only to religious beliefs, but to any closely held belief.

A person’s beliefs are core to who they are. People in general do not like to be challenged on who they are. This has led to beliefism. A typical person, when challenged on their beliefs, does not listen rationally to the argument presented that goes against his or her beliefs. They instead give the person making the argument a label that the two people do not share. The person who is challenged then attaches negative adjectives to the uncommon label and dismisses the argument. As an example, I have a friend who is an atheist. He also really hates religion. He recently said some things that were insulting to a religious group. When some people expressed their displeasure at what he had said, he labeled them irrational, and dismissed what was said. This is an example of beliefism. It is not limited to atheists or liberals, but is prevalent among all walks of life. If my friend actually read this far he is probably saying, “But it is irrational.” You may be thinking it is irrational to believe in religion as well. Fine. The point is not that you have to believe the same as other people. The point is that when you simply attach a label, you are practicing beliefism. If it is irrational, explain why you think it is irrational. Don’t simply label. That was what upset me about the post that you initially asked about. Odds was practicing beliefism. She did not like your point of view; she labeled you young and religious. Since she does not think of herself in either of these ways, it was then easy to slap the adjectives of immature and blinded to these labels and dismiss you. Instead of discussing the points you raised, or better yet explaining why she herself felt that the Dakota abortion ban was wrong, she labeled and dismissed. Beliefism. While I do not agree with her position on abortion, the beliefism is what upset me more.

Some researchers believe that we are hardwired to discriminate. From an evolutionary perspective this makes perfect sense. While a primitive man may have been willing to sleep in the same case as other primitive men, he would not be willing to sleep in the same case as a saber tooth tiger for example. He was discriminating. Those that were not discriminating soon became food for something else and died out without being able to procreate and pass on their nondiscriminating genes.

However, as I have said in the past about other topics, genetic predisposition is not predeterminism. While we may be inclined to discriminate, we do not have to discriminate.

Now to wrap all of this up. A person’s beliefs are very close to the core of that person. Call it the soul or the essence or whatever. In today’s society, we are not likely to be eaten by anything. However, when we are attacked at our essence, it is the modern day equivalent of being eaten. People discriminate without thinking in order to protect themselves, because, as the example I gave at the beginning, it is very hard for a person to change who they are. We do not want to be presented with logical arguments that challenge our self-description because then we might have to change our self-description. Beliefism is merely self-protection. The problem with beliefism is that it causes us to reject other points of view merely because they do not gel with our points of view. I firmly believe that abortion is wrong in most circumstances. No argument is going to change my view of that. However, I need to recognize that there are very good and persuasive arguments that are in favor of allowing a woman to choose whether to abort a pregnancy or not. The fact that these are good arguments does not mean that my beliefs are wrong. It simply means that depending on how you view the issue; a particular argument will have more weight with you than another. This is why two people of equal intelligence, of equal dedication, and equal comprehension of the issue can differ on perspective. Having different views is not wrong. Having a popular or unpopular view is not wrong. Beliefism is what makes it wrong.

The other problem with beliefism is that it is so easy to recognize in other people, and so hard to see in yourself. I would not be surprised if some of my friends comment and say, “you do beliefism all the time, look at what you said about X.” I wish I could say that they are wrong, but I don’t know. I know that I have done it in the past, and had a friend call me on it. I do think it is exceptionally important that we guard against it in ourselves, and hopefully in 150 years, people will look back at beliefism as most of us look back at racism.

Now on another note, I would appreciate it if you would tell your parents about this site. I have a daughter and if she were 16 and getting a post from a 28 year old I would at least want to know about it. Also, I really hope your real name isn’t Abby XXXX, but if it is, don’t use it online anymore ok. Last summer I learned a lot of crappy stuff about what people can do with just your real name, especially to minors. Abby, thank you for coming to my site and reminding me of this. I think it is important to remember and guard against in ourselves.

8 comments:

Fishfrog said...

Let me first say that your obsession with this Abby girl is a bit disturbing. That is a joke.

Now to the meat and potatoes.

Labels are one of the most over used ways to avoid substantive discussion, I and think you are right on point on that. The most irritating thing about cable news talk shows and about political discussion in general is how frequently opinions are labeled as “liberal” or “conservative” or “PC” or so forth. Once labeled, as you say, the legitimate argument can be discarded.

An idea should be judged on its own merits. This is why I don’t think people should rag on Kwanzaa just because the guy who came up with it was a little nutty, or even criminal; people shouldn’t say Apocalypto is a bad movie just because Mel Gibson made it; and people shouldn’t ignore an otherwise valid point just because a “liberal” or a “conservative” said it.

Up until here, you and I are in complete agreement.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m assuming I’m the friend mentioned in this post who hates religion and recently insulted all jesus-based religions with a pretty inappropriate jab at jesus’s mom. The rest of this comment will proceed as though I am that person.

It is true that I don’t like religion. But contrary to dismissing the criticisms I received from my insult to christianity, I thought about them, discussed them with some people, and came to realize that my statement was beyond the pale.

Not only that, but I proceeded to lay out what some of my biggest problems are with faith. To rehash one or two, I don’t understand how someone can choose between two separate religions (the examples I gave were Catholicism and LDS) in a reasonable way. Once a person has decided to believe in something based on faith, how can they possibly, in an unarbitrary way, decide between differing belief systems, each with the same amount of non-faith-based evidence (and faith-based evidence, I assume) in its favor? I don’t think there is a way to choose that isn’t arbitrary. And so it seems to me that a person’s religion holds no more truth than anything else that arises because of the family a person is born into.

The fact that you label that “beliefism” strikes me as humorous. Down right funny. By labeling me a beliefist, you are ignoring the actual substance of what I say here and what I have said in other places. That’s fine, I guess.

It is true that I would like people to abandon their faith, but I understand it’s unlikely. I also understand that when you bring up legitimate problems with someone’s beliefs, it can be uncomfortable and even hurtful. I try not to bring it up too often around people I know get offended by it easily, but I still end up talking about faith quite frequently. I’m human, and humans err.

As a final note, when someone attacks your beliefs, it is not the same as being eaten by a lion. The lion kills you; you cannot get up, brush it off, and continue on your way to church. To say that when I call you irrational is the same ass being killed via chewing and digestion is pure hyoerbole. An attack on your beliefs is only a problem if you are overly sensitive or if you yourself are unsure about the rightness of your belief and see truth in the attack.

Arfanser said...

Yes you are the friend.

"I don’t understand how someone can choose between two separate religions (the examples I gave were Catholicism and LDS) in a reasonable way. Once a person has decided to believe in something based on faith, how can they possibly, in an unarbitrary way, decide between differing belief systems, each with the same amount of non-faith-based evidence (and faith-based evidence, I assume) in its favor? I don’t think there is a way to choose that isn’t arbitrary. And so it seems to me that a person’s religion holds no more truth than anything else that arises because of the family a person is born into."

The answer to this is in the question. Just because you dont understand how something happens does not mean it doesn't happen. I could give many examples of this but I think you get the point.

"The fact that you label that “beliefism” strikes me as humorous. Down right funny. By labeling me a beliefist, you are ignoring the actual substance of what I say here and what I have said in other places. That’s fine, I guess."

That is not what I meant to "label" beliefism. What I was describing as beliefism was the description of all christians as irrational in their beliefs. If that was not clear I apologize.

"As a final note, when someone attacks your beliefs, it is not the same as being eaten by a lion. The lion kills you; you cannot get up, brush it off, and continue on your way to church. To say that when I call you irrational is the same ass being killed via chewing and digestion is pure hyoerbole. An attack on your beliefs is only a problem if you are overly sensitive or if you yourself are unsure about the rightness of your belief and see truth in the attack."

I never said they were the same. I was merely giving what I thought was an interesting explanation for why this phenomenon arises. I know its a long post so I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you were just reading quickly. For the record, the belief that we are genetically predisposed to discriminate is fact, but the being eaten is just my extension of the theory. Just because a behavior developed long ago to help us survive does not mean it ceases to be relevant to our behavior when we no longer face that same risk of extermination.

Finally, I know for a fact you have never once engaged me on the basis for my religious beliefs, yet I got labeled irrational. If it hadn’t been you who did it, and you didn’t have this hostility toward this topic, do you honestly believe this is not beliefism?

And an attack on my beliefs would actually be welcome at this point. You still haven't attacked my beliefs. You simply labeled and dismissed.

As a side note, are you not kind of surprised by how little we did in Fed Jur this semester?

Fishfrog said...

Before I get into some other stuff, I think I should mention that it seems like you are projecting. I did not and have not said that christians are irrational. However, faith is not reason. Anyone who accepts something on faith is, by definition, not exercising reason. Faith comes in where reason leaves off. Not everything we observe or feel is immediately explainable by resort to empirical evidence and logical deduction.

I also feel as though you reactions to my comments here and to my posts and comments on my blog have been disproportionate to any insult you could possibly have suffered from them. On my Kwanzaa post you said I attacked your beliefs. Here you say that I have labeled and dismissed. I don't think I've done either. I also never "labeled" you as irrational. You have labeled me as a beliefist, though. But I don't really care. It doesn't really bother me.

What does bother me is your sense of victimization, like all anyone ever does it attack your beliefs. That is just not the case. I'm not saying I'm a victim either. Neither of us are. We are both surrounded by supportive people we like us (some of them even love us) regardless of our beliefs. So stop being so sensitive.

Moving on.

I am perplexed. I agree that it does, in fact, happen that people choose between faiths. And I believe you when you say that you could list many examples of people doing things that I don't understand.

My criticism is that any choice between faith-based options seems necessarily arbitrary. Normally, if I have to choose between two things, and only one can be true, I look at the evidence in favor and against each option. I use reason. We all do this thousands of time a day, even christians. So it is not the case that christians are irrational, but choices within the sphere of faith don't seem capable of rational decision-making.

I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on the matter. Note, though, that I am not attacking your beliefs in particular, but faith in general. That being said, you should not feel that you are representing all deists everywhere.

Arfanser said...

"I don't really get how people who are reasonable in every other aspect of their lives can suspend their disbelief in this one area. I don't understand, once you've decided to accept something that flies in the face of how the natural world works every single day of our lives, how you can choose between religious faiths that contradict each other. How does one pick between LDS and Catholicism without the aid of the reasoning processes that determine every other important decision we make?"

"Christianity and judaism and islam are divisive."

Two quotes from your blog. The first is what I have been using as the basis for the irrational comments that keep coming up. You do not use the word irrational it is true. However, "reasonable in every other aspect of their lives can suspend their disbelief in this one area," in particular seems pretty clear as a definition of irrational, at least in this area of their life.

The second quote is exactly what I was talking about in my beliefism post. Three religions with many sects and different beliefs covering millions of people and you labeled them all divisive. All? Really? You know enough about each sect and each person’s beliefs to know they are divisive?

Also, I never labeled you a beliefist. I said that practice was beliefism. I also said that I have fallen into that trap, so did I call myself beliefist? Either I called us both beliefist of I said that we had practiced beliefism. Maybe not a distinction you care to recognize, but it is meaningful to me.

Now, reason is not the antithesis of faith. Knowledge is the antithesis of faith. That is as basic as it gets. You are absolutely correct if you say a person with faith in something cannot know it with absolute certainty. However, if a person uses reason to get to faith that does not destroy the faith. I find reason essential to faith. That last sentence is just me though. I guess I need to clear that up since you are under the belief that I am claiming to speak for all faithful people.

I'll try to make this as clear as possible since I haven't in the past. At least the Christian God of the New Testament expects us to work to find an answer using our reason. It is the first step. Without reason the path is broken and we are left not knowing which way to go. I don't know the scriptures of other religions well enough to know if it is the same for them.

Finally, I did not appreciate the personal attacks in your last comment. I did not comment anymore on the Kwanzaa post because I have long believed from my experiences with you in the past that a meaningful discussion on the topic of religion is impossible, and so in the interests of friendship I just dropped it, just as I avoid the topic of religion with you in person. I am not going to discuss religion with you anymore on my blog. You can comment all you like and the comments will stay, but I will not respond to your comments about religion. So you get the last word. Make it count.

Arfanser said...

I got an email today from a friend that told me that refusing to discuss religion was not helpful. To be clear, I am not refusing to discuss religion, just with fishy. Our friendship works a lot better when there is not discussion of religion, and since I want to keep him as a friend I figure that is the best course of action.

Dex said...

At long last I have discovered you yet again. Funny how the Internet works!

So I am copying the comment you left at my original post nearly a year ago!

"So your response to the views of a 15-year-old is to tell her that her views are wrong because she is too young to have valid views and demean religion. Wow, you are a master debator."

You have a great point. I read your post here about beliefism... I tend to agree. Society is enveloped in this practice. I enjoyed this. Looking back on my original post I was reminded of a valuable lesson "don't judge a book by its cover." It is done far too much in this country.

abby said...

please delete this post. i do not want people googling my name and finding anything

abby said...

funny thing is....
You may have taken out my last name, but the url still has it.
so whenever my name is googled this comes up...