Philosophy Dudebros & Grassroots Don’t Mix

A post by Jamie

Hi-dee-ho, there, FreeThoughtBorg. I know a lot of you are eager to-be activists and even more of you have a lot of philosophy under your belt buckles. But you may not know yet that being Philosophy Dudebro in a grassroots action is terribad form. And if you don’t yet know this, you need to know this. Thus, I am writing to address you today with why that is, using my experiences over the past year in pro-choice activism to provide a context. For anyone who can’t guess from the choice in terminology alone, a Philosophy Dudebro is any guy who walks up to either a demonstration being attended by a grassroots counter-protest (think pro-life and pro-choice in the same space) or a grassroots demonstration on its own (think isolated pro-choice demo) with the expectation of unlimited time, energy, and attention for playing around with thought experiments and endless debate (see also: not protesting; pointless exercise; mental masturbation). Both pro-lifers and men who consider themselves pro-choice (but who haven’t checked their male privilege at any time in the past decade) do the Philosophy Dudebro thing, and it’s equally antagonizing no matter where on the issue your politics align. Some so-called “pro-choice” Philosophy Dudebros can’t even stop themselves from their pointless exercise when they finally stop engaging the pro-lifers.

Trigger warning: This post makes brief mention of graphic depictions of genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, and abortion—one of these things is not like the others—in the context of these histories being blatantly misappropriated by “pro-life” campaigns to “unmask the genocide” and “end the killing”. It’s disgusting. It’s beyond words. In fact, it’s just plain obscene. This is why I treat the entire pro-life movement as a hate movement of Westboro Baptist Church calibre.

Tone Police warning: I’m using a fair amount of profanity in this post because I am aggressively challenging the blood-boiling sexism embedded in this issue. This choice is deliberate but well-controlled and not at all impulsive. I am not going to play nice with people who critique the tone of my delivery, so just don’t bother.

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Hilarious parody site skewers Catholic sainthood

I am not sure why, I assume it has something to do with the fact that my name and e-mail is out there and searchable, but I regularly get spam e-mail from people hawking a book or offering me an “exclusive chance” to interview someone I’ve never heard of for my blog. Usually I reply with a simple “please remove me from your e-mail list”, but they continue to pour in unabated. Because I occasionally talk about religion, I often get this unsolicited spam from people hawking religious books on behalf of their clients – a feat of irony that tells me they don’t bother to read the blogs before they start pimping to them.

The joys of internet notoriety, folks.

Most of the time I delete them without reading, but yesterday I received an e-mail that, to the untrained eye looked like the same kind of spam, but was, upon closer inspection, actually an extremely clever bit of anti-Catholic parody: [Read more...]

Movie Friday: I am the ANTIPOPE

For some reason I cannot fathom, there is an OLD story from the Telegraph with the most misleading headline of all time that is currently floating around the Facebook walls of my friends. No clue why it’s popping up, and why people who I generally know to be reliably skeptical didn’t bother to read the timestamp before hitting the ‘Share’ button.

The story is supposedly about a “dramatic shift” that the Pope made with regard to the Vatican’s stance on condoms. I covered this story when it was actually news:

Come the fuck on, Ratzinger! Condoms are only appropriate in exceptional situations? Apparently in the Pope’s world view, it is better for a woman to become pregnant with a child she does not want and cannot afford to raise than it is for her to protect herself during sex. It’s better for a man to become inextricably yoked to another person for the rest of his life than it is for him to use a piece of latex.

And why is it a male prostitute?

Not all sex results in pregnancy (and I thank my lucky stars for that fact), but there’s always a chance. Many people want to have a child, for whatever reason, and are in a position to provide for it. Using condoms, unlike implants or hormone therapies or other intrusive forms of birth control, do not prevent people who want to have children from doing so. It is a simple technology that harms nobody (unless you count sperm, which I don’t).

Whatever claim to some kind of moral insight or authority that the Catholic Church pretends to have is repeatedly undermined by the ethical stupidity that is repeatedly on display from the Vatican.

The Pope deserves no cookies for saying that an HIV-infected (male) prostitute MIGHT be okay to use a condom. That’s not a “shift” in anything. That’s just him continuing to be a gaping asshole.

So today’s video is in honour of Pope Benedict XVI (seriously… 16? Get some new names going on, guys!):

A bit of humorous absurdity to balance out the totally-not-funny absurdity that is the internet today.

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Suicide of an entirely different form

The Catholic Church says that they’re opposed to suicide. They say they’re very angry about it and those advocating it should cut it the fuck out:

The Catholic archbishop of Vancouver is calling on the provincial government to appeal a landmark B.C. Supreme Court decision Friday that struck down the law that makes physician-assisted death illegal in Canada. Friday’s decision to strike down the law against euthanasia “sadly reflects a distorted view of equality rights that emphasizes autonomy over human dignity and the value of life,” said Roman Catholic Archbishop J. Michael Miller, in a statement.

“True liberty means the freedom to live one’s life secure in the knowledge that those who care for us are in dedicated to the service of life, not the taking of life.” Miller then urged the government to appeal what he called an “extremely flawed and dangerous ruling.”

As a side note, we should definitely explore the feasibility of attaching some sort of dynamo to George Orwell’s grave, because the “Freedom is Slavery” line from a repressive organization like the Roman Catholic Church trying to dictate to the rest of us what “true liberty” means could probably inspire enough spins out of the old boy to generate a few million megawatt hours.

But back to the topic at hand. I don’t think the Catholic Church is actually opposed to suicide. I’m not talking about their fetishization of martyrs – the apologetics that allows them to side-step that bit of seeming hypocrisy is not exactly that difficult to figure out. No, I think the Catholic Church is opposed to everyone’s suicide except their own: [Read more...]

Less relevant by the minute

Since I was a little kid, I’ve loved stories. Even as an adult, I am drawn to the narrative arc – the pacing, the twists and turns of a good plot, the art of a well-crafted climax – these have always been like magic to me. In my younger days though, I was drawn to Greek mythology in a big way. It wasn’t just the fanciful tales, although I liked that aspect a lot – it was the fact that each story was attached to some kind of lesson. They weren’t just stories told for amusement – they were expositions of human foibles and an accounting of how ancient peoples saw the world.

While Aesop’s Fables are not, strictly speaking, Greek mythology, they are perhaps the best exemplar of that type of morality and psychology as taught through story that we have. While Jesus of Nazareth (supposedly) taught in parables, it can often be an arduous exercise to pick out the nuggets of useful knowledge from the heaps of nonsense (what kind of shepherd abandons an entire flock to search for a single lost sheep? A bad one, I’d imagine). The fables attributed to Aesop are far clearer and more real-to-life.

One of the most famous, at least among the secular community, is the Emperor’s New Clothes. The reason it’s famous in our clique is because it so perfectly mirrors the public perception of religion – everyone is told how important and meaningful and significant it is, but as soon as someone takes a critical look at it the whole edifice quickly unravels to reveal one naked fallacy after another. However, turned on its head, there’s another valuable lesson contained in that story. One about the vanity and blindness that accompanies unchecked power and how it can lead people into situations where they completely fucking embarrass themselves: [Read more...]

First things first

One of the great truths about religion, at least contemporary religion in North America, is that it has largely shed the fundamentalism of its past and has evolved (perhaps a poor choice of words) into a much more tolerant and forward-thinking practice. Gone are the days of slavish adherence to obscure and backward dogmatic beliefs that were the hallmark of a time when such things were necessary to hold society together. Everyone knows that, aside from a few fringe groups, religious institutions are really more about building fellowship and fostering community service than anything else.

Of course, like all religious “truths”, that’s complete bullshit:

The Vatican has ordered a crackdown on a group of American nuns that it considers too radical. It says the group is undermining Roman Catholic teaching on homosexuality and is promoting “feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith”. The Leadership Conference, which is based in Maryland, represents about 57,000 nuns and offers a wide range of services, from leadership training for women’s religious orders to advocacy on social justice issues.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the nuns’ organisation faced a “grave” doctrinal crisis. It said issues of “crucial importance” to the church, such as abortion and euthanasia, had been ignored. Vatican officials also castigated the group for making some public statements that “disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops”, who are the church’s “authentic teachers of faith and morals.” [Read more...]

Kicking and screaming

I don’t envy the Pope. While sure, it would be nice to wield as much power and influence as he does, it would come at the price of getting hated on by a pretty significant portion of the world. I suppose he tries to balance it out by focussing on his legion of sycophants blowing white smoke up his ass, but at some point you’d imagine he gets a bit down on himself for having to be such a prick all the time. If I’m rude or incivil to someone who, perhaps upon reflection, maybe doesn’t deserve the sharp side of my tongue, it follows me around for days. I can only imagine what it must be like to know you’re responsible for the deaths of millions of poor children and women following your boneheaded advice about condoms (for fear of hell).

Add to that the fact that you’re primarily responsible for an organization whose edifice is rapidly crumbling, particularly among places where the public education systems (which your organization had a hand in building, let’s not forget) are paying off and churning out critical thinkers. Perhaps the only organization in the world with worse PR problems than British Petroleum. An organization whose public face (besides yours) is that of ludicrous and notoriously unpopular failed U.S. presidential candidates. An organization that is the punchline to pretty much every paedophilia joke under the son sun, a reputation for which you made a significant contribution.

No I can’t imagine it’s easy wearing the big pointy hat. Not only do you have to carry around this completely justified international hatred, but you have to do it whilst simultaneously digging holes deeper and deeper for your organization to sink into. After all, what kind of religious institution learns to change with the times and find new ways of doing things without relying on centuries-old practices rooted in patriarchial attitudes and zealous political gamesmanship? Certainly not the Catholic Church: [Read more...]

Americans: not as dumb as I thought

I have to admit something to my American readers: I have a complicated relationship with your country. I kind of see America like a big brother who’s kind of a screwup. Lots of talent, but makes poor decisions – gets drunk and picks fights, but then once he’s bailed out of jail he goes to the library and comes up with a brilliant get-rich quick scheme. And then blows all of the money on drugs. He gets into abusive relationships instead of dating that perfectly nice and cute girl (who is the one that keeps bailing him out of jail), because he likes ‘bad girls’. He’s powerful and brilliant, but erratic and dangerous.

American people, to draw large, sweeping, and unfair generalizations, seem to be willing to put up with a lot more bullshit than I would think is rational. Part of that is the fact that they believe a lot of bullshit about “American exceptionalism” and Manifest Destiny and the shining city on the hill and “leaders of the free world” and “model of freedom for the whole world” all those myths that were sort of true about a half-century ago. The remainder, however, baffles me. To think that the same country that produced the Ivy League also produced Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign is a fact that makes me have to have a little lie-down.

To put a point on it, I don’t think much of the American electorate. After the last election here in Canada I don’t really think much of the Canadian electorate either, but there’s no chance that Herman Cain would lead a national opinion poll here. I have to believe that. However, I may have to revise my impression of Americans upward slightly: [Read more...]

Religious no-longer-free-dom

If they weren’t such a bunch of self-righteous, predatory, literally holier-than-thou, shockingly dangerous and immoral scumbags, I’d have some sympathy for the Catholic Church. After all, after centuries of iron-fisted rule over the minds of powerful nations around the world, the level of power afforded the Holy See has diminished substantially. As people have learned to pull back the curtain and find out who’s working the levers and dials of the Great And Powerful Pope, the church has had to start chasing believers and whining like a bully whose victims are finally fighting back.

One of the things that truly baffles me about public policy and religion is the fact that churches are tax exempt. I suppose it is defensible insofar as some churches provide charitable services; however, that is not even close to all they do. Their main activity is doctrinal instruction, not charitable organization. That kind of ‘service’ does not, in my mind, warrant getting the special privilege of having all income declared tax-exempt.

The Vatican has a weird relationship with Italy. It’s like when a spoiled child announces that ze is now going by a new name, and then the parents just kind of go with it until ze grows up and stops demanding to be called “Tangerine”. Except in this case, the parents are all the countries in the world, and the bizarre name is “Vatican”. True to its form, because the Vatican is technically a church, it demands tax exemptions for all of its properties, even those which are obviously not places of worship (as though that made a relevant difference).

I think the parents are getting fed up: [Read more...]

Just one more…

I’m not sure what it is about religious belief that robs you of any sense of irony, but that phenomenon is fairly well-documented. Religious people seem to lack the God-given ability to self-examine and see yourself as others see you, which is problematic because most of the rest of us see you as sanctimonious jerks (which is, I suppose, a charge commonly leveled at atheists, so maybe that’s not fair of me to say. SEE HOW IT’S DONE, RELIGIOUS PEOPLE?)

What really doesn’t make sense, however, is the complete loss of a sense of historical perspective that seems to be associated with fervent religious belief. For some reason, they keep falling in the same hole over and over again:

Christian groups have condemned a provocative Spanish play about Jesus called Golgota Picnic (Golgotha Picnic), due to premiere in France. Street protests are planned when the play is performed in the southern city of Toulouse, before moving on to the capital Paris. While urging restraint, Toulouse’s Catholic archbishop said the play “fouled the faith of many believers”.

I mean, haven’t we already done this? Didn’t we do this like… 3 months ago? And wait… didn’t we do the exact same story only 4 months before that? I mean, I could keep writing this stuff again and again, but after a while it kind of gets boring making the same points. Censorship of blasphemy doesn’t create less blasphemy. If anything it makes it more attractive and popular. There are things that are actually worth getting upset about in your own organization. Log in your own eye, speck in others’. Art is supposed to be subversive. Blah blah blah. C’mon guys, get hip to it! [Read more...]