Last night I gave a talk for the Alliance of Happy Atheists at the University of Oregon. It was a lot of fun, like usual. The group of students were all awesome to talk to, the pizza was yummy, and my talk was well received (or so I was told – would an Alliance of Happy Atheists say anything negative…?).
Near the end of my talk I mention how feminists who are still religious are way more likely to believe in woo-woo spiritual stuff, like reiki, astrology, paganism, and wicca because they tend to be a lot more pro-women. But the problem with these things is that they’re still bullshit, just like Christianity or Islam.
Apparently one student took offense at this because he considers himself an atheist pagan, and he didn’t appreciate his beliefs being dismissively called “bullshit.” During the Q&A he asked me if I saw value in any sort of spiritual beliefs. I replied that people find value in different things – that I find value in truth, so unfounded beliefs in any sort of supernatural things don’t improve my life somehow. But that even if people found their lives improved by those things, it doesn’t make them any less bullshit.
The back and forth went on for quite some time. He basically seemed to be rewording his question in an attempt for me to admit that other spirituality – not that of mainstream religions – is somehow awesome and deserving of a free pass. I tried to emphasize that I don’t think people who believe that stuff are necessarily stupid or bad in some way, but that the beliefs are still false.
At dinner a friend of his mentioned how offended that guy was that I used the word “bullshit” and didn’t respect his pagan beliefs. I always feel a twinge of guilt, because I never purposefully try to offend. But I can’t feel much more than a twinge, because it’s goddamn hypocritical expecting your particular wacky beliefs to get some sort of free pass. If you were lapping it up while I spent 45 minutes tearing apart Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, you don’t get to put your own belief in a little bubble.
Everything is fair game.
And dude? I reel it in a fair amount when I give presentations. Make sure someone brings smelling salts if you ever listen to a hot-blooded firebrand like PZ or JT.