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Atheism and debate June 22, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in issues, rants.
Tags: , , , , , ,

“The more you stomp in poop, the more it stinks.”

Who thought I’d ever be quoting Billy Ray Cyrus, eh? It’s true, though, and it’s the best way to describe how I feel about responding to the anti-atheist comments I get here. Sometimes they’ll go all-out on their rage (“You’re going to hell!”) or be deceptively nice (“May you see the light someday”), but I treat them all the same way: I delete them.

It’s not as easy when you’re confronted with that kind of spammage in real life, though. If there’s one thing I learned after almost a whole year of being a “heathen” atheist, it’s that you have to walk around carrying an arsenal of proper responses to arguments that will be thrown at you from any angle. Atheism and debate walk hand-in-hand, or at least, debate is constantly humping atheism’s leg.

Here are the different debate tactics I’ve encountered so far:

1. The sanctimonious approach
Case in point: Tyler

“Your atheism is just a phase. You’re a good person, TA, I know you’ll come back to the light eventually.”

Insisting that you’re not in a dark place of any sort will only lead to the two of you running around in circles, so I just respond to this with a noncommittal nod and smile, followed by…

2. The change-of-topic
Case in point: Me

Tyler: “Why are you still an atheist?”
TA: “Oh, um…hey, the espresso brownie at Starbucks is really good, have you tried it? Come on, let’s go get one.”

If debate were a PlayStation (sorry guys, I’m loyal to Sony — wider game selection), this tactic would be the “reset” button. Yeah, I know, shame on me for taking the easy way out and wearing out that button like a motherfucker, but you’ve got to learn to pick your battles. Time is of the essence, and I’d rather waste it on other things than explaining why yes, I’m an atheist and no, I’m not Satan’s daughter.

3. The banishment
Case in point: CDT

CDT: “You were being condescending, blah blah blah.”
Me: “Are you kidding me? Here’s why your comments were completely condescending, and I just responded because I don’t tolerate that kind of asshattery around here.”
CDT: “…Satan has got a hold on you!”

Still the dumbest argument I’ve ever had (next to the ones with my mother), and the funny thing is that I’m pretty sure CDT still thinks he won.

4. The personal attack (closely related to #3)
Case in point: Fred

Fred: “I can’t believe you posted our whole debate on your blog and made me look like an idiot!”
TA: “I just quoted you verbatim, dude. I didn’t make you look like an idiot, you made yourself look like an idiot.”
Fred: “Oh yeah? Well, all of my friends think you’re an elitist bitch!”
TA: “…And? What does that have to do with anything?”
Fred: “You’re not offended?”
TA: “No. Should I be?”
Fred: “You’re not compelled to change your personality and be a better person? Wow. That’s kind of horrible.”

I couldn’t help laughing because Fred, who happens to be a bigger elitist and a far more abrasive and unlikable personality than I am, was OMG Morally Outraged (TM) that I wasn’t affected by that “revelation.” And the moment he lost his temper over that while I maintained my cool, I knew that I had won.

See, Fred’s a very predictable type of debater: if he knows he’s been backed into a corner, he’ll go right for the jugular and throw everything but the kitchen sink at you, even if it’s completely unrelated to the topic at hand. These debates are very easy to win. All you have to do is keep a straight face and remain calm and unaffected. They’ll go batty.

5. The non-sequitur
Case in point: Mother Dearest

“How can there not be a God, when I managed to get through all of these difficult times in my life? How can there not be a God, when this world is so beautifully complex? You can’t possibly believe that it came out of nowhere!”

It’s tough arguing with idiots. You can’t win, even when you win. Not to say that my mother is an idiot entirely, but you all know how she is when it comes to my atheism.

So, there you have it. TA’s Top 5 Encountered Debate Tactics. Now, it’s up to you whether you want to respond to the argument, or be a lazy bum like me and just press the “reset” button.

No two ways about it October 25, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, friends, issues, rants.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Fred finally got to read the post I wrote about his homophobia, and as expected, he didn’t like what I had to say. He confronted me, demanding an apology.

Fred: “First, I talk to you on the assumption that what I share to you is kept between us, and sorry, but I find what you’ve said to be rather condescending.”

Basically, he didn’t like it when I called him out on his homophobic bullshit on his blog, and now he doesn’t like it that I called him out on his homophobic bullshit on my blog. He also called me a bigot for the way I write about him on this blog, and said that I was also “rude and disrespectful” towards him.

Well, go ahead. Call me self-righteous and condescending and whatever you damn well please, because I probably am, but if we continue to be tolerant of that idiotic “homosexuality is a choice” mentality, then when will the bigotry end? So no, Fred, I don’t respect your opinion and you can’t make me, because I won’t stop bitching until people treat gays with the respect they deserve.

He also blamed me for bringing up the actual topic with him and confronting him on it, because he supposedly didn’t want to talk about it with me.

Fred: “I tried to back down so many times, because I didn’t want to talk about it. I knew you were sensitive to that crap, and I knew you’d disagree with whatever I have to say.”

See, now who’s being condescending?

Fred: “It would’ve been fine with me had you not taken my opinion like shit. You never did respect my opinions when I disagree with you.”

We jumped right back into the debate, because Fred claims I misunderstood him the last time.

Fred: “Look, this stems from the difference in belief of what you and me see people as. From what I could tell, you see people as a bunch of chemicals just thrown together to make meat that moves. I see people as a being of will. Above the capacity of one’s own physical brain, humans have a will, and I believe that a person’s will is the only limitation he has in anything. See, serial killers are people who kill a bunch of people for arbitrary reasons, without direct benefit from the act of murder; so, to many psychologists, serial killers are known to have parts of their brain that just make them go that way. You know that, right? Now, would you argue that a serial killer just kills people because he’s been born with an extra large adrenal gland, or because he lacks the will to control his deficiencies?”
TA: “The latter; but see, I find it hilarious that you’re comparing gay sex to murder.
Fred: “Then there’s no point in reasoning out any further.”
TA: “Allow me to repeat myself: who do gay men hurt when they’re fucking? Humankind? See, here are my basic rules: if no one else is getting hurt, then what’s the problem?”
Fred: “Well, that’s your belief, and I’ve no right to question as much, but it’s not the act of having sex that bothers me, it’s their being homosexual in the first place, because as can be observed, MOST homosexuals arise from trauma, and I believe that it’s weakness for one to simply resort to homosexuality. It’s kind of the same as depression, or suicidal tendencies.”

So, you don’t mind the gay sex part, just that they’re actually being gay, because homosexuality is…a mental illness? Wow, that’s much less offensive!

I actually do believe that human beings are of will, too, but I don’t think gayness is something you have to exercise control or will over. Because it’s not wrong.

Fred: “Okay, in being gay, it is only wrong if it is an exhibition of past trauma. There. That’s it. Otherwise, you can have whatever you wish.”
TA: “Wow. do you blame rape victims for experiencing PTSD too?”
Fred: “Sure.”

Then I just laughed in his face, and he called me an ass. Honestly, is there anything I could possibly say to make him look worse than he does? He does a pretty good job of it himself!

Fred: “I’m very much inclined to reason, and simple reason dictates that what I believe is true, it takes something else to believe in what you believe in.”

“Reason.” Heh-heh. (And rationalists all over the world weep at the misuse of this term.) It’s reasonable to not have any respect for gay people. Oh wait — Fred doesn’t dislike all gay people, only the ones who experienced some form of trauma when they were younger.

TA: “What’s the point of all this then? Why did you confront me? What do you want me to do?”
Fred: “Have a little tact?”

[Note: This is hilarious coming from Fred, because he’s one of the most obnoxious people I know. He’s the kind of guy who likes to rub it in my face that Kurt Cobain sucks, just because he knows I’m a Nirvana fan. (What?)]

TA: “I think you’re a bigot, as do my readers. I’m just being honest, dude, because I find your views outrageous.”
Fred: “Well, you shouldn’t have posted it there in the first place.”
TA: “Why not? It’s my blog!”
Fred: “Because I like to keep my opinions to myself, and those who I entrust them to.”
TA: “I’m glad I posted it, because I think that people need to know that this way of looking at things is wrong, and it’s hurtful to gay people.”

He then went on a tirade on how I was wrong to be “thinking in absolutes,” in that there is an actual right and wrong in this debate, instead of respecting the opinion that gay people who couldn’t overcome their past traumas are weak.

Still, of all the dumb things he’s said in this exchange, this has got to be one of the funniest:

TA: “Have you read the sources that Martin posted? From the American Psychological Association? You think the APA are bullshitters, too?”
Fred: “If they’re not in paper, they’re not worth reading.”
TA: “It’s the bloody APA, read it before you talk to me.”
Fred: “And, please, that’s America.”
TA: “And so?”
Fred: “Everyone in America is touchy-feely with everything.”
TA: “You’re discrediting the APA because they’re touchy-feely? Nice rebuttal!”

Seriously. He claims to be making his arguments on “reason,” when the only basis he has for them is anecdotal. I’ve got sources from a national association of psychologists, and their opinion is worth shit because they’re touchy-feely?

Fred: “Fine then, I discredit them as the society and culture in their nation pressures them to believe in such. And I never said I wanted you to believe in what I have to say, that’s why I didn’t even want to talk to you about this.”
TA: “I know, you wanted me to ‘have some tact.’ Well, I’m sorry, but there’s no being tactful about this, because I hate how gay people are treated. They have it nearly as bad as atheists.”
Fred: “You’re too close-minded about being open-minded.”

He’s upset because I’m supposedly making him out to be this evil, fag-murdering monster on my blog, when really, I haven’t said anything that makes him look worse than he is. All I did was cut-and-paste his quotes to my blog.

He insists that the way he thinks is okay because he treats gay people the same as everybody else. I likened that to the way my parents treat me: They don’t openly hate on my atheism, except for the occasional backhanded comments, and they clearly believe me to have no sense of values. It’s not as bad as some people, but it’s still very offensive to me.

Fred: “If I would find out that a person resorts to homosexuality as a means of escaping something in his mind, then that’s something I don’t like about him.”

TA: “How is what you’re doing to gay people NOT like what my parents are doing to me?”

Fred: “Does that matter?”

TA: “Yes, because they’re prejudiced, and so are you.”

Fred: “You’re forcing it that I prejudize [sic].”

TA: “Well, you haven’t proven me wrong, have you? Or do you think my parents aren’t being prejudiced towards me?”

Fred: “I don’t think they’re as prejudiced as you see them, and whatever prejudice they have for you, you’re doing the same to me.”

TA: “Are. They. Prejudiced?”

Fred: “In aspects, yes.”

TA: “Then so are you.”

Fred: “But it’s more of a no, really.”

I laughed. I laughed out loud, and I also wanted to kick his teeth in, because what he just said was both hilarious and upsetting. It’s more of a “no?”

This is why I blog about you, Fred. Because if I let this mentality slide, then people will think it’s okay to group homosexuals in with depressives and serial killers. People will think it’s okay to secretly dislike fags and atheists, just as long as you treat them normally. Well, it’s not. I do believe there’s an absolute right in this debate, and it is this: acceptance. And not just pretending you accept them, but really believing them to be as human and normal as the rest of us.

Yes, I could probably have handled this with a little more tact, but this issue is something that I take to heart, and there are really no two ways about it — it angers me that people continue to think this way. Maybe you’re right, Fred, and I am being “just as bigoted and prejudiced” towards you as you are to gay people, but guess what? Ethnic minorities didn’t gain acceptance until people stood up and said “It’s NOT okay to hate.” So I’m not going to accept your opinion, and I’m not sorry for being “rude” and “tactless.” The occasion called for it.

Wanted: Objective (and gay) third party October 2, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, friends, issues, rants.
Tags: , , , , , ,

One of the reasons I’m glad I started this blog is that I learn so much from the people who comment here with advice and explanations for various things. So in this blog post, I’m going to actively ask for your opinions, this time regarding the topics of homosexuality, homophobia and affirmative action.

I often discover my greatest passions through embarrassing means. I’m an alt- and grunge-lover, but I only discovered these genres through watching Rock Star: INXS. I discovered Imogen Heap through Garden State. I’m a huge supporter of the LGBT cause, and while I have never hated or disliked gays, my PFLAG-esque passion stemmed from watching Queer as Folk (or as I like to call it, “gay porn”). Now, I don’t think the catalysts affect my sincerity, even though they’re a little tough to admit to.

In any case, I’m still a staunch defender of gay rights, despite the fact that I’m just a straight girl who likes watching pretty boys make out with each other on a soapy Showtime series. And I don’t espouse gay rights as my cause celebre because Brian/Justin was an abnormally hot, so-wrong-it’s-right couple, but because next to atheists, I think the LGBT community faces the most discrimination.

So it irked me considerably (read: I totally PO’d) when Fred* made a gay joke on his blog and then followed it up with this statement (paraphrased):

“I’m not a homophobe. The term ‘homophobe’ is pejorative. I’m not afraid of homosexuals, I just don’t like them. The politically correct word is ‘heteropreferential.'”

Granted, my rebuttal was a wee bit more hostile than it should have been, but I found that statement to be incredibly asinine, and I thus responded accordingly. To me, being a homophobe and calling yourself “heteropreferential” is like being a racist and calling yourself “[insert race here]-preferential.” And I don’t think intolerance should be sanitized. You’re free to disagree with me, readers; I’m probably biased in thinking that homophobes do not deserve a “politically correct” term. (Though if you called me “pro-abortion” rather than “pro-choice,” I wouldn’t stop you.)

Anyway, Fred doesn’t see himself as a homophobe. He “likes Freddie Mercury, even though he was gay.” I asked him if he didn’t like that Mercury was gay, and Fred said yes. I thought that sentiment was homophobic in itself. If I said I liked Jimi Hendrix “even though he was black,” as opposed to just liking Jimi Hendrix, period, would that not make me a racist?

I confronted Fred on his statements, and we got into a lengthy debate about it. Debates with Fred are tiresome because they always wind up circular. We just keep repeating the same things over and over again. It boiled down to this conclusion: Fred thinks he’s not a homophobe because he goes by the literal translation (“homophobia” = “fear of homosexuals”) while I think he is because I go by the dictionary definition (“homophobia” = “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals”).

But Fred also disagrees that he’s a homophobe by dictionary definition because he feels that his dislike for gays isn’t unfounded. So, why does he dislike gay people?

Fred, verbatim: “Homosexuality is a choice.”

If I were as devoid of morals as people say atheists are, I would have punched him in the face right then. (more…)

“Holy” Matrimony September 29, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, friends, issues.
Tags: , ,

Fred* (named after “Special Fred” in that Stephen Lynch song, tee-hee) isn’t as crazy as I might have made him seem in my “Truthiness” entry. Sure, he’s got a few psychological conditions he’s working on, but it’s not like he has conversations with trees or eats glue. I enjoy talking to him because I feel like he and I are cut from the same cloth, somehow (a thought that scares me just a little). I honestly have no idea whether or not he’s atheist; he acts like one at times, but at present he tells me he’s a Catholic.

I didn’t have any problem telling him about my atheism, and he didn’t react with much fanfare, either, just as I’d expected.

“I’d do the same, if it weren’t that inconvenient,” Fred told me. “I keep my religion solely for convenience. Nobody would marry me if my papers said ‘atheist.'”

“That’s really the first thing that came to mind?” I asked him, amused, and he replied in the affirmative.

Now, I haven’t had my papers changed to say “atheist” yet, but I’m not sure where I stand on the issue of marriage. I don’t know if I’m abnormal for thinking this, since marriage seems to be the ultimate goal for most people, but I couldn’t care less whether or not I ended up getting hitched. (And married atheists exist, don’t they?) Seriously, everyone is so obsessed with hooking up. My whole life, I’ve been pelted with, “Stop [doing X action] or you’ll never have a boyfriend!” Like this one time, when my science teacher addressed me in front of the class and said, “Stop growing taller or you’ll never have a boyfriend!” (I’m 5’8″, and I could do with a few more inches. 5’8″ is short in the modeling industry, you know!)

Mind you, this isn’t a feminist or even an atheist rant. I’m not for or against marriage; I really just don’t care. Most marriages end up in divorce, anyway — oops, except for my Predominantly Christian Country because divorce isn’t legal here.

But what if I should chance upon a smart, sexy Mister Right and want to start a family? I feel like marriage is not necessary for starting a family anyway, but if Mister Right is of a certain religion (though I’d probably prefer an atheist) and would want to get married the traditional way, I wouldn’t object. I see marriage the same way I see Christmas: I love the frivolities (in this case, cake, pretty dresses and a fancy reception), but I’m indifferent to the “significance” of it all.

If I were still a Catholic, I’d probably take the Angelina Jolie or Sarah Silverman route and proclaim that I wouldn’t get married until the gays and lesbians could. Which, in my country? Not in a million years.

The extent of my truthiness (TM Stephen Colbert) September 23, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in friends, issues.
Tags: , , , ,

As I’d previously mentioned, three of my friends know that I’m an atheist. One, whom I shall call Fred*, is somebody I might consider a little batshit crazy. I’m not sure if he’s an atheist like me, because he flip-flops a lot, but I knew he wouldn’t care in the least whether or not I was, so I told him. Another friend, Tyler*, is the friend I consult with all my hyper-dramatic teen angst problems (read: family problems). He’s one of the most sensible, honest people I know, which is why he is my go-to guy. One catch: he’s religious — some form of Christianity that I don’t know how to translate into English, let’s just call it Protestantism until I can find a better-fitting label (er, Jehovah’s Witness? Man, I stray further and further from “politically correct” with every word I type). The third friend, Camille*, is a friend residing overseas whom I exchange wacky anecdotes with on a daily basis. She lives in California, which is generally a more open-minded place than my Predominantly Christian Country, so I felt comfortable in telling her. She didn’t mind it; she told me that a lot of her friends in California are atheists, too.

Obviously, I’ll be talking about Tyler today.

Remember the text-message altercation I had with my younger brother, Pete? At the end of it I was at home, reduced to tears, and not just the silent tears that I normally cry. I’m talking serious caterwauling and crumbling to the floor here. In dire need of some reassurance (because up until that point I had seen Pete as my best friend), I crawled to the phone and dialed Tyler’s number.

After babbling endlessly about how Pete trampled all over my ego, I finally admitted to Tyler the root of the problem: my atheism had forged a divide between myself and my pseudo-religious brother.

“You’re not a bad person,” Tyler assured me, and I believed him. But then he asked, “Are you absolutely sure you’re an atheist? For good?”

Knowing Tyler’s God-centric nature, I lied. “No. I’m always open to believing again.”

“See? You’re a good person. Your brother is just upset because he looks up to you, so it’s a disappointment for him to find that you don’t believe in God.”

Look, independent of his religion and his bias against atheists, Tyler is a wise and kind person, and an indispensable friend to me. I have a feeling that if I’d told him the whole truth (that I’m probably going to stay this way for the rest of my life), he might have been convinced himself that I was as “evil” as Pete said I was, so for the moment, I’m going to have to keep up this half-truth. Until I can find another wise, advice-giving friend who is more tolerant of atheists, the ball’s in Tyler’s court.

*not their real names