I read this post on Love, Joy, Feminism earlier, and went away thinking,

See, THIS is why I like Libby Anne’s blog. [I’ve been saying that to myself a lot lately!] What she said about religion at the end there is pretty much what I think about it. And that’s why I don’t like atheists like, oh, JT Eberhard [remembering a post of his I read recently about Chris Stedman’s ‘Faitheist’ book].

And then I stopped, and blinked, and thought about what I’d just thought. I flash-remembered some words from Dan Fincke around the time of his shift from Freethoughtblogs to Patheos, about disagreeing with a whole laundry list of his fellow FtBloggers on some things, but still liking and respecting them and working with them.

Wait, wait, wait. Why – wait. I DISAGREE with JT on the value (or lack of value) of religion. That… doesn’t mean… I have to say I don’t LIKE him…. I don’t even KNOW him. I might like him if I did. Even if we disagreed! That’s a thing… that you can do? Whoa. You CAN.

So I came back out here and started to write a comment on Libby Anne’s blog, then quickly realised it was going to get wordy so I changed it to a post here. This paragraph only has one sentence in it that bears on the topic. Somewhere, all my English teachers are crying.

This seems like it shouldn’t be a revolutionary concept, I know. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t for me, at least a few years ago. I distinctly remember reading this and finding it very powerful. I even started feeling more charitable towards my political opposites, more willing to look at where they were coming from. I remember liking it, that feeling of being willing to get along with everyone (or at least everyone who was willing to get along back).

And then, the 2008 election happened. And all the conservatives, at least all the ones whose voices I heard, went completely batshit. And suddenly I was no longer willing to hear where they were coming from. First just the hardliners, then quickly the moderates as well, and those who looked like they were thinking about being moderates, etc., etc. My facebook block list has grown amazingly fast over the past year. And probably the depression was also feeding into this (irritability is also one of the symptoms, kids). Patience basically went out the window. And it wasn’t particularly pleasant, no; it’s tiring to maintain that level of irritation all the time. But I didn’t seem to have a lot of control over it. I’m out of practice at the whole “agreeing to disagree” thing. So yes, this really does feel like a new concept.

It’s also not one that I’m willing to necessarily extend across the board. Unless it’s somebody I already have reason to be invested in, I will probably continue to block friends of facebook friends based on frequent sexist, racist, classist, or homophobic statements (frequency requirement to be determined by me and my hormones). I don’t see any value in agreeing to disagree on “should my friend’s mom and her wife be treated as less-human-than-thou”. They should not be. While there may be hurt occurring on both sides of that argument, real, actual people are hurt through no fault of their own when discrimination is practiced. When discrimination is prohibited, the only hurt that occurs is self-inflicted hurt, by people who are affronted by the very existence of homosexuals on themselves. Ok, I’m going to end this paragraph before I start writing another, completely different blog post.

Back to JT. Right now, I honestly can’t put my finger on what it is about his writing that occasionally makes me go “graah, forget you and all of your works!!” and click away. It’s not the anger at religion, because a lot of other people I read (Libby Anne, Dan Fincke, PZ Myers, Greta Christina) have the same anger and I don’t feel the same irritation with them. I think maybe it’s because JT’s take, to me, comes across as “There is no value in religion, and no value in religious people until they stop being religious because until they do that, they are deliberately contributing to all that is wrong with humanity.” OK, I guess I can put my finger on it.

Thing is, I don’t believe that he means to harm anybody with this. It is, in fact, because he wants to prevent harm to people that he broadcasts this message as stridently as he does. Now, one could argue that someone who truly believes that being gay is harmful is acting in the same way, but I don’t think it’s quite true. For one thing, I admit that it’s hard to find somebody who could be actually harmed by what JT says except in the sense of feeling offended, which in large part is something you are doing to yourself. For another, I think if he did encounter, say, a recovering addict holding onto their Higher Power as the main anchor keeping them sober, I don’t think JT would get in their face about how they need to drop that. On the other hand, many Christians have no problem telling gays to their faces, “God loves you, but he also commands you to be somebody else.”

Besides, I’m still working on this concept. Cut me a little slack. Perhaps one day I’ll have figured out all the nuances and details of how we should decide who we accept and who we agree to disagree with and who we choose not to interact with. I doubt it though. I’m pretty sure that’s one of those lines that we all just have to learn to decide for ourselves. For now, I’m just trying to push it back so it doesn’t make a neat outline directly around my own feet.

Advertisements