Monday, October 22, 2012

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

Irony has long been among my favourite forms of humour. It comes from unexpected places, and sources of irony make great talking points most of the time. It also helps you to realise that the world isn’t as boring or predictable as it sometimes seems. I derive a sense of joy from that.

So the fascinating (but all too brief) experience I had on Debunking Christianity – Why All Oppressed Minorities Should Reject Christianity certainly left me with a considerable sense of my beloved irony. I am banned from all future posting by the site’s owner, John Loftus. Follow the link, read the comments, and see if you can work out why.

Thy hammer of ban. Note: text has been obscured in the interest of preventing the insignificant trickle of traffic to this page from potentially cutting into John’s advertising revenue. If you want to read the post and subsequent exchange, do so there.

To recap, John thinks all groups that have been oppressed by Christians ought to reject Christianity on that basis alone. Or, at least, that fact alone ought to be sufficient grounds for rejection without considering any other factors, and he finds it almost unthinkable that anybody would adopt the religion of those that oppressed their ancestors.

As you will find out if you follow the link, disagreeing with this and explaining why places you in any or all of the following categories:

  • A bigot.
  • A liar.
  • A misogynist.
  • An apologist for racism.
  • A Christian pretending to be an atheist (a sheep in wolf’s clothing, if you will).
  • Entirely unwelcome.

While I fully expect less-than-charitable responses from the long-term residents who fuel John’s echo chamber, I was most surprised by the dismal conduct of John himself. I invite anybody who trips over a tumbleweed and lands face-first at the foot of my own excuse for a blog to see for yourself if all the invective, accusations against my honesty and integrity and subsequent banishment were merited. And, since I’m denied any further right of reply over there, any discussion worth salvaging may as well take place here. I seriously doubt it will though. This is more to prove a point.

Anyone who sympathises with my take on the situation would probably share my sense of disappointment at the behaviour of a man who, by his education, literary achievements and reputation, really ought to have made a far, far better account of himself. This disappointment gives rise to speculation. Going forth with the assumption that I was not entirely out of line, was he simply having a bad day? Has he grown lazy from constant reinforcement and praise from followers who hang on his every word? Has he become simply so entrenched into a siege mentality from years of blogging and arguing that he sees the “enemy” everywhere?

Or, if I am permitted a moment of unashamed vanity, was my dizzyingly short tenure at DC (when others more rude, more inflammatory than I have survived much, much longer) simply down to the perception on John’s part that I made him look bad? And that my repeated calls for him to address the arguments (and not beat a path directly to ad hominems and banning) and support his accusations went unanswered simply because he couldn’t (at least not without taking a backward step or two)?

It would be easy for me to leave it there, having quickly reached a conclusion which paints John in a bad light while I emerge unscathed. No. Too easy. I ultimately think this is still the case, but I have to at least try out the idea that it isn’t, and play Devil’s Advocate with myself.

If I am honest, I must own up to the fact that this sort of thing happens to me quite often. Tempting though it may be to lay the blame at the feet of others, the common denominator is me. Moreover, I am quite sure that John is not incapable of defending his views, and isn’t afraid of debate (having had numerous public debates in his time) so the idea that he ran from me or acted out of cowardice is not consistent with observed reality. Clearly, the reason lies elsewhere. Evidently, I am excellent at rubbing others the wrong way. Why?

I stumbled upon a potential insight while reading through The Promise and Perils of Authorial Voice, an article by author and philosopher, Eric Reitan. My authorial voice probably registers somewhere in the vicinity of nails across a blackboard, and without my talent at pouring a perfect beer I’d have few redeeming features at all. It would seem that, despite my best efforts to the contrary, this aspect of my personality still comes though as strongly off-putting as it ever did.

With all that said, and despite his obvious intelligence, John also has an extremely polarised view on religion and his thinking is not immune to error, nor is he impervious to accepting sophistry because it aligns with his own preconceptions. Nor am I. Nor is anybody. There appears to be little or no middle-ground, concession, or acknowledgement of any grey area. This seems to be so much the case that his mental landscape does not allow for such an oddity as a fellow atheist who is unimpressed with one particular display of his “cleverness”. The reaction was clear evidence of this: brand me a Christian-in-disguise and drop-punt me from the arena with all due haste.

Based on a string of unimpressive encounters with fellow atheists that finally culminated in this towering dick-move from somebody who is often mentioned in fairly elite company, I am becoming increasingly disillusioned with people who are perhaps somewhat too eager to attach to themselves labels such as “freethinker”, “rationalist”, and so on, just because they don’t believe in gods.

Moreso than ever does the tagline for the now-dormant Common Sense Atheism ring true: atheism is just the beginning; now it’s time to solve the harder questions.