How easy it must be to be Be


Natalie Reed is a transgender activist and an atheist, and possibly more importantly, a fantastic writer. She wrote an insightful post (like she does) regarding a meme spreading amongst the transgender community that “God loves trans people”, wherein she vehemently disagreed with the statement, because there is no evidence for the existence of this corporeal entity that people claim loves them. She also lays out the fact that religion, historically, has been aggressively anti-gay and anti-trans and, well, extraordinarily xenophobic with regard to anything and anyone that does not fit into the “traditional” (e.g., “DEFINED BY GOD!”) gender roles. These facts are well in evidence around these parts, so I won’t rehash them.

Be Scofield is a Divinity School pantheist and a pro-theism activist, and probably more importantly, terrible at both reading for comprehension (as Chris Hallquist covers), and at writing persuasively. He rebutted Natalie in a most repetitive and anti-Gnu-Atheism manner that she is wrong because she believes supporting religious delusion also supports the more extremist of the religiously deluded. Maybe not in exactly those words, but that’s the gist of his argument, which, while he demands sociological evidence for Natalie’s assertions, he supports his own via argumentum ad nauseum. He also makes several assumptions about Natalie’s line of thinking, about her method of argumentation, her reasons for making the arguments she does, and about her general psychology.

This, by the by, is the same person who, not long ago, accused Greta Christina of racist imperialism by pullquoting Sikivu Hutchinson, one of the biggest contributors to Black Skeptics.

From Be’s paean:

The belief that underlies Reed’s thinking is that if we got rid of religion everyone would magically see how wrong white supremacy, transphobia, class oppression and sexism is.

Is it now?

No, in fact, I would contend that Natalie’s line of thinking was laid out extraordinarily clearly when she said:

Guns and bombs have been used in the service of just revolutions and wars. But that does not make guns and bombs harmless and snuggly. The fact that something can occasionally be used for just ends does not make it any less dangerous or capable of being used for unjust ends. And like guns, more often than not, religion is not put to service for the protection of the weak and vulnerable. Like guns, more often than not, religion is put to service to maintain the positions of the strong and powerful.

I contend that Be’s the one engaging in magical thinking; he’s projecting his own belief that if everyone converted to religiosity, or at the very least stop bleeding off into atheism, the world would be a better place. This projection is very much in evidence elsewhere in his piece:

The fundamental flaw in Reed’s argument is that it conflates people like James Cone who have stridently resisted white supremacist Christianity with the KKK who have used Christianity for their own racist agenda.

The argument Natalie actually made though was that religion itself, by virtue of being an irrational belief in something unproven and dogmatic, is dangerous. It exploits cognitive bugs we humans all share and can be used both for good and for evil. Religions can in fact be used to justify anything, can be used to induce its adherents to behave in any manner — even those religions that explicitly claim that certain values are fundamentally incompatible with their practice. One does not have to look too hard within Western religions to find examples of beliefs derived from the same foundational text that are completely incompatible with one another. Be’s own example shows exactly this: that for every person who resists a form of bigotry, there exist entire organizations that support it, and both of them derive their beliefs from the exact same text.

Many individuals can choose their own morality, their own path, and thereafter are free to pick and choose from the smorgasbord of rationalizations offered by any religion, even the religion they were given by their parents, rather than relying on the very thought processes that gave them the morality they chose to begin with. The problem is, honestly, less with the people who choose their morality then rationalize it thereafter. The problem Natalie has, I have, and in fact most “New Atheists” have with religion itself is that many people are not allowed to choose their morality then pick the religion that best suits them. Most people are shaped, molded from birth, to believe that which their predecessors believed without any scrap of evidence. And many of these beliefs are directly harmful and often even xenophobic, and if you were not raised to think critically about beliefs in general, you will not question your own beliefs.

If people are taught to respect unfalsifiable and dogmatic beliefs and not to challenge these beliefs when they are presented without evidence, it doesn’t matter whether the person offering those beliefs is good or bad, it matters more whether the beliefs themselves are good or bad than whether they are supported. This means it is all the more difficult to reason someone out of a position they never reasoned themselves into in the first place.

That argument of religion itself as harmful is separate and distinct from the fact that religion, when it is insulated from criticism as a matter of faith, serves as a club for either side of any argument. Religion does not deserve the special privilege it has been granted as exempt from criticism, and its special privilege is being abused more often than being used to heal our world. And even if it was used more often to heal our world than to harm, then the usefulness of that belief is undermined by every act of violence committed in its name, and this undermining is magnified by the very lack of evidence that Natalie, myself and others disdain about religion. Better if all beliefs were predicated on evidence, so that when people have discussions about how certain moral values are either helpful or harmful, they can reason with one another using our common language without resorting to arguments from the authority of very old and unproven texts and the magical deities they describe.

I suppose she wants to impose a Western scientific atheism on indigenous cultures and religions around the world? This is the height of cultural imperialism and arrogance. I’ve never even heard of your religion or culture but I’m enlightened by science and I know it is harming you. I know your religion is dangerous because all religion is dangerous. You need to be like me. Please.

(Emphasis in original.)

This argument was wrong when Be pullquoted Sikivu, and it is wrong now, especially in light of the fact that Natalie anticipated and tried to insulate against the scare tactic preemptively. Changing the minority group that he uses as a foil does not fix the fatal flaws with the line of argumentation that Frederick Sparks so deftly lays bare. As Sikivu pointed out, atheists have some extra challenge ahead of them in presenting atheism in a way that is relevant to other cultures by taking into account the differences in those other cultures and respecting those differences, but that does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that atheism is itself a “Western scientific” belief system. It is a disbelief in whatever local religions happen to exist in any culture. It is an understanding that this universe operates by rules that can be sussed out through scientific inquiry, and the correlating understanding that lots of people evidently believe things that run contrary to that understanding.

It is no more imperialist to challenge the accepted dogmas in another culture by supporting the atheists in that culture than to support believers in your Abrahamic god in cultures where that was an import to begin with. And it is certainly far more imperialistic to exhort that your particular religion should be preached to the four corners of the world (assuming you believe in a religion that thinks the world is flat and has corners). Opposing dogmatism and encouraging skepticism and doubt has value in every culture, without regard for the specifics of that culture, because every culture has a set of belief systems that are incompatible with any understanding of reality. As PZ Myers points out, there are 4300 different faith groups worldwide, and that isn’t even counting all the little ways any particular adherent might modify the beliefs of their “parent” faith group. If any of them are correct, only one of them is. But, all of them can be incorrect, and in fact they very likely are.

So when it comes to the understanding of the scientific method and the secular worldview, of empiricism and of scrutiny and of skepticism and of doubt, which has been built cross-culturally since the days of the Greek philosophers, one can apply the lessons learned by these hundreds of years of rationality and examine any dogmatic belief system and can suss out what’s bald assertion presented without sufficient evidence and what’s actually empirically true. And since the seeds of doubt are universal, you will find atheists in every culture and society. These people deserve support. In areas where we have nascent swells of atheism like North America, we would do well to take a lesson from people like Sikivu Hutchinson, who in her insight rightly contends that we must assist those doubters in other cultures where they may not have a support structure like ours. We must not fall into the trap that Be Scofield does in thinking that our support structures are “one size fits all”. Just because the seed of doubt exists in every culture does not mean that the support structure we use is also cross-cultural.

The reality is we need more queer and transgender people to become religious leaders. We need more women and people of color to hold significant positions of religious authority. Black liberation theologians, Womanists, and feminist theologians are important voices in the struggle against oppression and domination. But Reed would see a transgender religious leader as a step in the wrong direction. I see it as a necessary corrective to historically narrow minded institutions.

The answer to all Be’s apparent prayers would be for everyone to convert to religiosity of some sort or another, to change these structures from within. Rather than sloughing off the institutions that are used most often to oppress and subjugate people to certain dogmatic ways of thinking, rather than supporting a true religious freedom of giving everyone all the most relevant information and letting them decide for themselves whether a particular religion is right, the answer in Be’s mind is to convert, to anything. To force an institution predicated on outdated ideas to evolve. To force that institution to come to terms with the idea that their interpretation of their foundational texts may be incorrect. As though there is something of value in those institutions other than community, which you can get in myriad other ways.

While this is an excellent way to make atheists of casual believers, to tell them that the text that is easily used to support anti-transsexual sentiments is simply being misinterpreted, I can’t see this as actually helping his case. He is showing his own imperialism in this — that every culture, that every movement that struggles against oppression and domination, should join any theology in general (presumably, later, his theology in specific, given he founded “godblessthewholeworld.org”!) to absorb those movements into the ultimately oppressive and dominating dogmatic theology that values faith more than evidence. Is this not imperialist against the skeptics and atheists who exist in every culture?

The idea that Natalie is somehow “blaming” trans folk for the oppression done to them by the religious is disingenuous at best, but I’d go so far as to say it’s an outright lie. The observation that supporting one form of delusion gives cover to other forms of delusion and all the violent rhetoric (and actual violence!) said delusion entails is a common one, and well-grounded. That people participate in and facilitate their own oppression is certainly nothing new. Natalie pointing it out is not blaming them for their behaviour, she’s blaming the institutions that are taking advantage of those cognitive bugs we all have. She laments that people have these bugs — as do I — but she does not blame them or call them immoral or stupid or less than fully realized human beings for it. We’d all be caught, Natalie and I included, if we intended to cast that particular net.

Trans folk deserve better than to be used as pawns in service of religious dominionism. They deserve better than what amounts to “battered spouses syndrome”, where they are abused by religious dogma for so long, and are told the path out of that abuse is the embrace and reinterpretation of the very religious texts that have been used as a club. They deserve better than the answer to be, hey, look, the God that this dogma describes actually really loves us (if you turn your head and squint at scriptures just so).

Natalie’s analysis is spot-on. God doesn’t love trans folks, because no deity ever described by any dogma actually exists. Because every one of those faiths can be disproven on some fundamental point by science, all you’re left with is people. People who choose what to believe and what not to believe. The vast majority of these people who believe in God also believe that transsexuals are just wrong, and just because some people who believe in God are okay with trans folk, that does not mean that God loves trans folk. If you take into account the concept of “Self Projection As God“, then you will easily understand where both the “God hates trans people” and “God loves trans people” are actually describing how THEY feel about trans people.

Stripping away that layer of abstraction when people say “God loves/hates X” shows you exactly where the problem actually is. Trans folk need to recognize that the people who say “God loves” may love trans people themselves, and can and should be allies, but they are just as wrong about why they should be allies as the folks are who say “God hates” are wrong about being your enemies.

Meanwhile, Be gets to coast on his own imperialism, gets to escape any measure of introspection, and can happily adhere to the utterly simplistic and magical worldview that everyone would just be that much better off if only they were religious. He can write thousands of words talking around the same idea that somehow “New Atheists” are wrong because they’re vocal, without any measure of realization that he is in fact vocal himself. He can somehow navigate the minefields of cognitive dissonance while laying so many mines himself. It is very much like Be was born with some part of his brain configured solely to deal with the cognitive dissonance that comes from believing in an institution despite its history and its destructive and grinding effects on people like him.

How easy it must be to be Be Scofield. How utterly magical it must be to do all of this with such seeming facility. Despite all the hardship he’s endured in realizing his trans status, what a simple world it must now all be to Be with his cosmic connection to the inerrant reality of his theism. How comforting it must be to know that your belief, out of 4300 possible super-beliefs and infinite sub-beliefs, is exactly right because it’s right because it’s right, never mind all those times that people with the same belief have hurt you in the name of said belief. It almost makes me envious.

Then I realize that to be like Be, I’d have to turn off my brain.

Comments

  1. baal says

    Great post, thanks!

    My first thought was ‘Be, again?, really?’

    My second thought is that it’s rude, unfair and asinine that Be and other religionists (yes I mean folks who want to promote religion for its own sake) refuse to move their rhetorical stand one inch. Be was on these boards for a few rounds and read and replied to a number of points. Decent, honorable and adult folks listen to argument, concede some points and double down on what matters the most to them. I don’t see Be showing any sign of engaging in give and take and never see the religionists address objections either.

    This lack of decency is also why I don’t debate or discuss the news certain conservatives in the office. They only recite talking points and then walk off smugly having ‘won.’ Nary a one of them actually has an idea they are willing to defend and the only out come they allow for is them winning or your capitulation.

  2. F says

    I’m glad some people can spare the effort to respond to Scofield at length. Personally, I can just barely work up enough enthusiasm for a “Whatever, fuckwit.”

  3. says

    Personally, I’m getting really really annoyed at the only time Be ever asserts (or even really mentions) being trans at all is when it’s convenient for him to position himself as such, either to deflect accusations of privilege, or to make him sound like an expert on this particular issue. Be is apparently still living full-time as male, and is apparently quite content to allow himself to be seen, perceived and interpreted as male in most cirucmstances, and asks that people refer to him by male pronouns until he’s “fully transitioned” (a concept which doesn’t really make sense at all given how transition you works. You CAN’T “complete” transition until AFTER you’ve been living as your identified sex for some time and have adapted to it so thoroughly that the concept of ‘transitioning’ stops being meaningful to you… that takes years and years of living as and being perceived as your identified sex, including being referred to by the appropriate pronouns). Be is completely insulating himself in male and cis privilege, and has barely set a tippy toe into the actual experience (and hardship, discrimination, risk, oppression, ridicule, bigotry and day-to-day struggle) of being trans while also having the gall to claim insight into what being trans means and is. Maybe when he’s exposed to the same risk of violence, he MIGHT understand why I find it dangerous to validate the foundation on which “god hates trannies” beliefs are built, and would instead encourage actually thinking things through instead of just pitting one unsubstantiated intuitive appraisal of God’s will against another. But he just OOZES cowardice. The exact same kind of cowardice reflected in not being willing to face and assert a female identity until that identity is somehow certain and stabilized.

    Sooner or later, Be, you’re going to actually need to transition. Yes, it’s scary, but you can’t do it all in secret while clinging to your male/cis privilege until the bitter end. I hope that the experience of actual risk and marginalization teaches you a bit about what actual privilege and discrimination is and looks like. Good luck.

  4. says

    Thanks for posting that, Natalie. You’ve said a lot I wish I could have said but don’t have the position, and a lot more that I hadn’t even considered. I have no idea what level of threat he’s actually exposed himself to, but I can bet that he’s so far “in the closet” as far as the rest of society’s concerned that he hasn’t seen a sliver of a fraction of what’s coming.

  5. Be Scofield says

    I’m not a theist. I don’t believe in any supernatural God. You won’t find anything I’ve written where I’ve stated this. You should correct this factual error in your post. It’s like if I wrote a response to you and said that you are a theist – there is as much truth in it. If anything, I describe the natural world as sacred and divine.

    @Natalie

    You have no idea what I’ve been through or am going through. You shouldn’t attack me about my process. I’m dealing with enough. Let’s stick to the issues here. My gender identity has nothing to do with the validity or quality of my arguments.

  6. Rieux says

    You should correct this factual error in your post.

    When do you intend to get around to “correct”ing any of the numerous blatant lies you have told about Greta Christina and Natalie Reed?

  7. says

    @Be,

    I am not terribly familiar with you. I have read a couple of posts in a few different places but I really don’t know much about you at all.

    That being said, I would like you to inform me exactly what you do actually believe in if not a “supernatural deity” of some sort. If you claim your spirituality is based on natural phenomena then please lay them out for us very cut and dry so we may critique them fully with out misrepresenting you in any way.

    I will remind you for us to consider them natural phenomena, you must provide testable claims for your spiritual beliefs. We cannot ascertain the naturalness of any hypothesis if it is untestable and can then attribute it to unnatural (i.e. not real) causes.

    So please, Be, I ask that you lay it out for me. Please tell me what you have that I should believe in. I promise if it can be shown to be real, through testable means, I will believe it exists. I have to say I may not believe it has any philosophical merit. Obviously vegetables are real tangible things, I still don’t worship them.

    So please, Be, tell me I don’t know.

  8. says

    Be, you’re right, I don’t know what you’ve been through. But pardon me if I resent you asserting insight into what it means to be trans while you’re still apparently insulated by a public male identity. If that’s not true, and you are living as female and trans, and are experiencing the risks and dangers that accompany it, then alright, correct me on my mistake. But if not, I reserve the right to find it highly insulting that you use that identification as a way to position yourself as more marginalized or less privileged than you really are, and also highly insulting that you presume to speak for those of us who are living with the realities of marginalization, discrimination, and the risk of bigoted violence (often motivated and validated by religious, or even non-religious, FAITH).

  9. says

    Be @6: Sooo… I can change the “theist” to “pantheist” in the second paragraph. Is there anything else in the 2400 words I spent on you that you’d actually like to address?

  10. F says

    Natalie Reed

    Be, you’re right, I don’t know what you’ve been through.

    And Scofield doesn’t know what Natalie or anyone else has been through, although he certainly assumes he know what everyone’s though processes are. Someone needs to take their own (correct) concerns into account when speaking about others.

  11. Be Scofield says

    @Natalie

    I have a trans male friend who removed his breasts over 1 year ago. Only now is he starting testosterone. Throughout the last year he’s used both his male and female name depending on the circumstance. Now he’s using his male name full time. I’m glad he didn’t seek you out for support because all I hear you saying is “What is taking you so long?” “You aren’t trans enough!” “How dare you identify as trans when you haven’t made the switch yet!” “I find it highly insulting that you are using your identification as trans…etc.” “You can’t speak about trans issues because you don’t really know what that is like!”

    For every story like his there are countless others of people who take a long time to be comfortable with their new presentation. Some choose to at first express their new identity in certain places, others choose to do it only at home…etc. You shouldn’t attack them for not living up to your standard. Just let them be. There are many, many factors that go into this (money, context, support, resources, treatment.) But if you are really that pressed to see me transition you can of course send me several thousand dollars as that would speed up my process.

    **you use that identification as a way to position yourself as more marginalized or less privileged than you really are**

    I never mentioned in my article that I was trans, so I don’t know what you are talking about. I’ve never complained about my marginalization or made statements about it. I’ve never used it for my advantage to win sympathy or to portray that I’m less privileged than I am.

    Anyone could have written the article that I did. They need not be trans, queer or anything else to debunk your faulty arguments about religion. That’s of course why I didn’t mention it. Because it is not relevant to the substance of these arguments about religion. Your whole rant against me is only a distraction from the real issues. Stick to the issues here.

  12. says

    that’s one ugly strawman of what Natalie said, Be. she didn’t say anything that can be reasonably interpreted as those faux-quotes you wrote, she instead said that you’re using your trans-ness as shield against having to examine other privileges you hold. you’re welcome to refute her on that point, but if you need to make up shit to make your argument, you rather obviously don’t HAVE an argument.

  13. Be Scofield says

    Natalie Says:
    “I resent you asserting insight into what it means to be trans”

    My paraphrase statement:
    “You can’t speak about trans issues because you don’t really know what that is like!”

    Again, this is silly because I was never “asserting insight into what it means to be trans” anywhere. I have no idea where this is coming from. I wrote an article about religion and critiqued her faulty arguments about religion and God.

  14. Rieux says

    I wrote an article about religion and critiqued her faulty arguments about religion and God.

    The hell you did. You didn’t even notice her actual “arguments about religion and God,” much less show anything “faulty” about them.

    It takes a fair amount of gall to complain that Reed is misrepresenting you here when your entire treatment of gnu atheists, including her personally, has been so chock-full of strawmen.

    I ask again: when do you intend to get around to “correct”ing any of the numerous blatant lies you have told about Greta Christina and Natalie Reed?

    The belief that underlies Reed’s thinking is that if we got rid of religion everyone would magically see how wrong white supremacy, transphobia, class oppression and sexism is.

    – B.S.

  15. Rieux says

    That is your response to the thorough documentation of your dishonesty that I have compiled and provided? And to my objection regarding the blatant hypocrisy of demanding that Thibeault and Reed correct what you think are misstatements about you… while you do nothing to revise any of the blatant falsehoods you have published about Reed, Greta Christina, and other gnus?

    Do you have the slightest sliver of integrity at all, sir?

    Meanwhile: yes, I hope to be able to respond to every dishonest attempt you make to slime innocent gnus for the horrible crime of bruising your unjust and suffocating religious privilege. I’m not going to apologize for showing up to call your dishonesty and self-centered illogic by their right names.

  16. karmakin says

    @Be Pantheists shouldn’t use the word “God”. That’s a word that means something specific, and if that’s not what you really believe, then you shouldn’t use it. If people get confused because of it, to be honest, it’s on you for poor communication and not them.

    Truth be told I’ve met far too many Pantheists who want their cake and eat it too, they don’t want to be lumped in with the materialist interventionists but they don’t want to change their language/traditions away from materialist interventionism either. Change doesn’t start with us. Change starts with you.

    Newsflash: We can’t just be “nicer” and then people will accept us. It’s our mere existence that people find offensive, it’s the concept of atheism. Everything else is gravy. Not that I’m one to go around being a jerk, of course, but still, you have to understand that what atheists do is generally rainbows and puppy dogs compared to even mainstream/moderate religious traditions.

    That you think otherwise really is religious privilege.

  17. says

    Be, that is an ENORMOUSLY insulting strawman you just positioned. How DARE YOU assert that I am denying the legitimacy of trans people’s identities, or trying to hold them to some kind of arch-narrative. Like… seriously… that is fucking appalling. The degree to which you read into anyone who disagrees with you some kind of ludicrously exaggerated personification of evil is horrifying. Have you EVER read what I write? What I do? What I fight for? Do you have ANY idea WHY I expose myself to hatred and attack on such a consistent basis? Why I risk my privacy and have outed myself? Are you familiar with my stance on trans issues and identification? Or when you look at my blog, is all you see “New Atheist” and extrapolate some demonically arrogant monster from there, ignoring absolutely everything I’ve ever said and stood up for? Seriously, Be. How fucking dare you accuse me of that. You are one of the most pompous, hypocritical, and insulting people I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering. Fuck off. I can’t believe I ever tried to engage you in dialogue or defend you from criticism.

  18. says

    Hey, Be didn’t read anything I wrote, either, and I didn’t even mention his trans status. I don’t think it’s anything to do with you, Natalie — just that we aren’t sitting back and taking the righteous fury his pantheistic pro-theism drives him to unleash on us. We’re “off the script” by challenging his assertions.

    Which, by some accounts, might be assent to those assertions. So, Be, do you have any intention of using the “atheism is racist dominionism” argument again, now that you’ve been shown severally why it’s fundamentally wrong?

  19. says

    But Jason, seriously, I don’t think you understand just how insulting what he just said is. It’s not JUST straw-manning me, or failing to understand my point. He just accused me of one of the things I have most dilligently, consistently and fiercely fought against, and positioned myself against, often at considerable risk and cost to myself. I am fighting tooth and fucking nail, every single day, for the right of people to define their own gender and not have it externally or coercively defined. And I sacrifice a lot for the fight. And he just accused me of doing EXACTLY what I’ve been working so hard against. He’s not just missing the point. He’s spitting on everything I stand for. I thought his “I’m going to speak for the poor defenseless trans people who need religion!” thing, while not being exposed to the actual daily risk of violence most trans women face, was insulting, but straw-manning me as an arbiter of what counts as “trans enough” is one of the most insulting things I have EVER been accused of on the internet. I can shrug off accusations of being really a man, or being a feminazi bitch, or an “imperialistic” / “angry” new atheist, or the PC thought police, or “overthinking” things, or “tl:dr”, or whatever the fuck… that’s exhausting, but it’s just internet noise. But having my fundamental values and principles attacked like that, by someone who has COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY missed the point of everything I do and why? Who insults the very core of my values and work? Insults why I’m putting myself through all this shit in the first place? That gets me genuinely angry. Like really, actually angry. In a way that internet stuff almost never does. If he said that to me in person, I honestly would’ve thrown my drink in his face, or slapped him, or some other kind of unthinking retaliation, because THAT is the degree to which it is insulting.

    Honestly, I’ve never ever been as pissed off and disgusted with another blogger since I began doing this kind of work as I am now.

    I’m never again going to utter another word in Be’s defense, nor consider him a reasonable thinker whatsoever. He goes WAY beyond just straw-manning, misreading and misrepresenting. He goes beyond it and crosses several dozen lines of human decency in the process.

  20. says

    I agree that he’s done all of these absolutely vile and grievous injuries to you, Natalie, and while I don’t understand the full scope of it, I certainly get an idea at least from what you’ve written here. I’m sorry to have hosted this discussion, because I respect you enough that I’m feeling partly responsible for what he’s said.

    I do still think he’s willing to cross all these lines because we’re off-script, though. I hope it illustrates for all involved just how odious Be Scofield is.

  21. says

    No, you don’t need to worry about Jason. It’s not your fault, and I appreciate you making this post. It was definitely nice that you, Chris and Ophelia posted rebuttals so that I didn’t need to. This has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with just how quick Be is to project the most horrible things onto people, and utterly fail to get his perceptions to match up with the realities of what people are actually saying, and actually working towards, and actually believe. And how quick he is to extrapolate from his loathsome projections the most horribly insulting accusations, without ever taking a moment to pause and reflect on whether those accusations are accurate, and how insulting they may be. How quick he is to make these terrible assumptions about people and never doing the work to actually read their blogs, and understand their positions. How he accuses even the most marginalized of voices within our community of being “privileged” if they don’t agree with his values (which have far more social power backing them up, as it happens).

    Be:

    By the way, it doesn’t cost thousands of dollars to begin transition. In fact, you could begin identifying on the internet with whatever gender you wish, and go by whatever pronouns you wish, with absolutely no financial cost at all. The only thing that takes is being willing to make the social risk, and sacrifice the privilege, in order to get your public identity to match up with who you really are. A pretty fair trade off, IMO.

    But I’ll tell you what:

    If you apologize for the fucking awful things you’ve said about me (and Greta too), admit that you’ve misunderstood and misrepresented our positions, agree to stop posting your horrible, vicious, ubsubstantiated attacks against FTB atheists, and add a note to your bi-line about your transition, I will send you $50 to $100 (depending on how genuine the apology is) with which to order a few months worth of estradiol and spironolactone from Inhouse Pharmacy. And if you don’t want to DIY your meds, you can put it towards either getting a therapist to give you your diagnosis and HRT approval letter, or buying some clothes and make-up and stuff.

  22. says

    Er… um… that should be “you don’t need to worry about it, Jason”, not “you don’t need to worry about Jason”. Sorry! My point was: not your responsibility, and I’m glad you made this post (especially since I was already crazy exhausted from all the other stuff that I’d been dealing with, like the CFI Okanagan Facebook fiasco, the angry responses to “god doesn’t love…” on twitter, the “die cis scum” thing, the “trans people are disgusting” thing on Axp, the “sounds like this dude is just pissed he can’t pass for a woman” thing on r/lgbt, the anti-intellectualism in response to my Lorax post getting passed around tumblr, etc. It’s been an intense week, and you guys taking care of this one is genuinely appreciated)

  23. says

    No worries, Natalie. I was happy to help. You can’t induce me to write anything this lengthy unless it really gets my goat. I was venting as much for what I saw as one massive injustice to the furtherance of discourse, as I was for how utterly unwarranted and incorrect basically everything he said about you was.

    My rough week has been another crazy work one, and it pales in comparison with yours. Sucks to have to deal with that kind of nonsense.

  24. says

    Also, if you adhere to all those things that Natalie suggested, Be, I’d chip in some money myself. Actually, I’d probably chip in money if only you’d apologize to Natalie and Greta, even if you stay fully closeted or keep using ridiculous and unsubstantiated attacks on other atheists. No need to give up using your atheists-are-racist rhetoric on everyone just because it’s been thoroughly laid to waste!

    Just don’t be surprised if it loses you a lot of credibility when you keep trotting it out. I mean, hey, Creationists do it when they pull out “carbon dating is a lie” or “fine-tuned universe” time and time again, why shouldn’t you keep reusing your perfect stock argument just because it’s been gutted and hung out to dry twice now?

  25. says

    Actually… come to think of it, the “can you send me thousands of dollars?” thing is rather insulting too! It’s absolutely an injustice how many trans people do not have insurance coverage, and how inaccessible transition related treatment can be, especially in the Unites States, and economic class can have a huge impact on how difficult transition is. Totally. But you know, people DO make it work. People who are economically disadvantages DO manage to transition. People who are in far more difficult situations, financially speaking, than you yourself, Be. It’s all about just being willing to make the necessary sacrifices. Move into a smaller place. Sell your car. Take out loans. Cut back on living expenses. Etc. I don’t know how well off you are, Be, but I assume you have a steady job of some kind, which is more than many people who are successfully transitioning have (such as say, myself).

    So yeah, seriously: in the interest of making a point, that transition is something anyone can make happen for themselves if they have the courage to face it*, I’m serious about my offer. I, someone living on income assistance and the pittance of extra income that comes from blogging, will be willing to make the sacrifices needed to buy you some f-ing hormones if you can apologize, acknowledge your mistakes, be willing to let go of your privilege, and own your identity.

    *I won’t overstep my argument by claiming that everyone in the states can afford SRS and/or FFS. I accept that that is, sadly, not the case. But I do stand by my assertion that everyone is able to transition. It’s NEVER easy, but it can always be done, there’s always options.

  26. says

    Also… sorry, but a couple quick disclaimers, just because I’m worried I’m setting myself up here to be badly misinterpreted:

    Some trans people are in REALLY shitty situations financially, and have to sometimes make awful decisions, like “get this month’s HRT or pay the rent”? And sometimes they have to decide to pay the rent. I don’t want to act like that kind of situation doesn’t exist. But Be Scofield is almost assuredly not in that situation, and implying he is is pretty insulting to those of us without his apparent economic advantages who nonetheless are proceeding with transition.

    Self-identification is free. Sometimes there are situations, though, where people’s careers or social or family support structure is dependent on not coming out, not identifying openly as trans or as their identified sex. But again, Be is not in that situation. If you can occasionally own up to being trans, you can own up to it wholly.

    But most trans people go ahead and transition even when it means making enormous sacrifices, and subjecting oneself to enormous risk. It almost always does. They don’t insulate themselves with privilege until they “complete” their transition, they don’t do everything as safely as possible… because it’s never safe.

    I don’t mean to say that Be should transition on my schedule rather than his own. That would be absurd. Everyone needs to work within their own comfort level and personal boundaries.

    BUT:

    It is not okay to attack people living with the realities of discrimination and marginalization like Greta and myself as being “privileged” without acknowleding his own privilege and the degree to which he’s insulating himself in it. It is not okay for him to be speaking on behalf of what’s best for those of us who face daily discrimination, oppression, risk of violence, risk of religiously motivated violence, etc. when he himself is sheltered from that. It is not okay for him to be so sheltered and then use people without his own socio-cultural advantages as a club with which to beat down people who object to his particular values, and accuse them of “imperialism” and so forth.

    That’s why the issue of his identity and relative privilege matters here. I bring it up because although he’s happy to use it as a way of attacking others, he refuses to acknowledge his own cultural position / privilege.

    Anyway… sorry for all the ranting. Just the whole accusing me of gender-policing thing REALLY hit a nerve. Way way way over the line.

    Yep, I’ll pitch in some money to help with your transition, Be. To prove that although it’s always difficult, it’s rarely impossible, and that the social cost is more significant than the material cost. And also to pose the question of how important your pride, and inability to apologize or accept your mistakes, and perhaps the privilege that comes along with your present identification, are to you.

  27. Be Scofield says

    It’s funny that you want me to apologize Natalie as your first statement about me after I wrote the article was (via twitter) “Fuck Be Scofield. Arrogant self-righteous, patronizing hypocritical moralizing, self-deluding appropriationist.” This was of course before the above comment which you believe was a misinterpretation of your statements. These sorts of vile and hateful attacks are certainly not unique to the new atheist community but they seem to be quite commonplace. The other space I’ve been attacked like this are by hardcore Obama loyalists who can be equally as mean.

    Listen, I’m not going to debate the legitimacy of my transition with you. I’ve been on hormones for several months now and already been HRT approved..etc. I’m in therapy…etc. I don’t have the energy to waste with this here.

    **It is not okay for him to be speaking on behalf of what’s best for those of us who face daily discrimination, oppression, risk of violence, risk of religiously motivated violence, etc. when he himself is sheltered from that.**

    I’ve never told anyone what’s best for them. I don’t care if someone is religious or believes in God or not. I’m merely critiquing your illogical claim that trans people are somehow responsible for contributing to their oppression because they believe in God or go to Church. I’d do the same against any atheist who said the same thing about any other group of people. This is vastly different than me saying “I know what’s best for trans people.” You are confusing two issues here 1.) what people should or shouldn’t do in terms of religion and what’s best for them (which I don’t care about) 2.) my critique of your arguments about the sociological relationship between belief in God by trans people or others and how it can or cannot contribute to religiously inspired oppression against queer people.

    You obviously don’t have much dialogue with trans people who are religious because the ones who I’ve talked to were extremely happy with my article. I had trans and queer people coming up to me in the cafe at school this week shaking my hand because they loved my article so much. One Church here in SF has 35% transgender people. You should go tell them how they are contributing to their own oppression and supporting the foundation of the Westboro Church and see how they respond.

    You in fact are the one claiming what’s best for trans people because you think you know that they shouldn’t believe in God and they shouldn’t be associated with religion. That presumes a lot of information about their lives which you don’t have access to. Given their situation, going to church could be the most supportive, empowering and healing thing they need. I’m merely saying that people should make up their own mind. You are saying that you know it’s better for them to be an atheist and not go to church.

    Being trans gives you insight in to the nature of trans oppression, bigotry and hatred both religious and non. It doesn’t give you insight into a very complex sociological problem about the relationship between the belief in God in one person and how that belief can influence, support or enable hateful acts by other people who also believe God. This is exactly the subject which I am dealing with here and that’s why one’s identity is irrelevant to this sociological/cultural question. You are talking about trans oppression, I’m talking about the correlation between person x believing in God and y outcome. These are vastly different things.

  28. julian says

    You obviously don’t have much dialogue with trans people who are religious because the ones who I’ve talked to were extremely happy with my article

    One Church here in SF has 35% transgender people.

    I am shocked to learn that people surrounded by others who share their views, outlook and life experiences would be happier than those in hostile environments where they are often discriminated against without the same safety nets.

    Truly I am.

  29. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    These sorts of vile and hateful attacks are certainly not unique to the new atheist community but they seem to be quite commonplace. The other space I’ve been attacked like this are by hardcore Obama loyalists who can be equally as mean.

    Be Scofield routinely complains about gnu atheism in general and specific gnu atheists in particular. He does not take criticism, particularly criticism backed by evidence and logic, well. He also thinks religion is exactly what trans people need to keep them from being oppressed. The point that various goddists are unabashedly, even proudly transphobic is a mere detail, not worthy of mention, SO WHY ARE GNU ATHEISTS MENTIONING IT? Don’t you realize Be Scofield is the supreme authority on all things transexual. Just ask him, he’ll humbly admit nobody is more knowledgeable on that subject.

  30. says

    “I’m merely critiquing your illogical claim that trans people are somehow responsible for contributing to their oppression because they believe in God or go to Church.”

    Another absurdly insulting straw-man. That is absolutely not what I claimed. I said faith is dangerous, and that open support of faith validates it and supports it, which can validate and support those who use it as a justification for bigotry. That doesn’t IN ANY WAY mean I’m saying that trans believers are responsible for their own oppression, only that those who ARE responsible for the oppression draw validation and justification from faith, which we needn’t and shouldn’t support.

    Until you can learn to read, and can get your perceptions of people to match the reality, you do not deserve to be listened to.

  31. says

    Oh, and the religious believers you hang out with liked your article? COOL!

    Well… how about this:

    You must not be in dialogue with trans atheists ever because the ones I spoke to really liked MY article!

    It’s an idiotic statement, Be. The fact that the people who wanted to hear what you said enjoyed hearing it doesn’t mean anything, and it certainly has nothing at all to do with my own dialogue with trans beleivers. Like… for fuck’s sake… how do you even get there?! What does the fact that some people liked your article have to do with who I’m in dialogue with?!?!? I can’t even wrap my head around how you connect the two.

    And yes, you DO presume to speak about what’s best for minorities, and you use them as a tool for making your points. You continuously behave as though YOU, the great and ever-tolerant and infinitely loving Be Scofield, who shall bless the whole world, need to defend the poor helpless minorities from having their cultures taken away by us big evil imperialist atheists or be colonized with our horrible Western “science” and “education” and “facts”.

  32. says

    (also, next time you call something I say “illogical”, please actually explain why. The fact that a statement might be uncomfortable, like “belief in a God who loves you might be taken as validation by those who believe in a God who hates you”, does not make it untrue or “illogical”)

  33. Be Scofield says

    @Natalie

    Your argument is equivalent to saying that someone who practices medicine is responsible for supporting and enabling corrupt doctors because they give credence to the field of medicine. This doesn’t make any sense at all.

    The only thing that trans religious believers share with the Westboro Baptist Church is an affinity towards God/religion. You can’t fault the trans people who are believers for the crazy fucked up stuff that the Westboro Baptist Church does. There are numerous other groups/actors in society that have far far more in common with the Westboro Baptist Church than religious people or believers. Like for example, groups/people that are homophobic share much more in common with Westboro than do trans people who believe in God. The acceptance and tolerance for homophobia lends to the support of people who are homophobic. But homophobic Christian lawyers are not enabled and supported by regular lawyers simple because they both practice law. Your logic is skewed here.

  34. says

    Be, I think a far more apt comparison would be that religion is akin to those “alternative medicine” peddlers who laud “complementary” treatments for things like cancer, which gives cover to those cynical asses who push treatment of cancers that involve ascientific, unproven procedures that forestall real medical treatment and ultimately lead to the patient’s untimely demise.

    Though I’m certain you’ll disagree on the merest principle that this is mean.

  35. says

    Funny, Be. Natalie told you exactly what religious people have in common that is harmful. It’s in that article you claim to have critiqued, remember? And it’s not “affinity toward [sic] God/religion”. It is a reliance on faith.

    Beyond that, she explained to you why that’s a problem. Faith can support anything. Yes, that means it can support lots of good things, but so can reason and fellowship. Reason and fellowhip, however, can’t support the ugly things, like, say, transphobia. Only faith can do that. That makes it dangerous. That makes it harmful.

    It’s not a difficult argument, Be. It isn’t one you haven’t been exposed to. It’s really something you should start grappling with instead of acting as though you’ve never seen it before while trying to distract us with irrelevancies.

  36. says

    Be, I’m getting really, really, really tired of you totally completely not bothering to understand the argument I very clearly explained. I anticipated almost every half-baked criticism you’ve thrown at me, and I carefully responded to each of them IN ADVANCE, and you’re basically just ignoring all of that so you can keep pounding away at Straw Natalie.

    What your argument seems to amount to is ultimately just “atheists are mean, and say things I don’t like, so therefore they MUST be wrong”

    And whenever we point out how one of your criticisms is inadequate, you just ignore that, pretend it never happened, and backpeddle to something else WE ALREADY ADDRESSED and hope we’ve forgotten about that. You’re just spinning in circles. “YOU’RE MEAN! YOU SAY THINGS I DON’T LIKE! YOU MUST BE WRONG!”

  37. says

    Also, as Stephanie just explained, my thesis was not just based on a commonality, as your analogies are. It was based on a critique of faith itself, and faith as a system that undermines critical thought and discourse and holds itself above questioning. Queer rights is dependent on being able to ask questions, to think critically, to work against faith and common sense, and getting people to accept counter-intuitive (and sometimes uncomfortable and “mean” truths). You know, like that the common sense notion of penis = boy and vagina = girl isn’t quite correct and doesn’t quite reflect reality.

    Reality. That thing faith doesn’t consider relevant.

  38. Be Scofield says

    @natalie

    Can u define faith for me? And do u believe it is unique to religion? If not give other examples. Im not sure we are talking about the same concept of faith. It’d be helpful to clarify.

  39. Rieux says

    Replying three days after things die down, eh, Be? That’s a good way to win an argument—for sure.

    Scofield:

    Can u define faith for me?

    Why in the world do you need “faith” defined for you? Has Reed not made it overwhelmingly clear what she means by that word? Is there something ambiguous about her argument? Or are you trying to rebut her by playing pointless word games? (…The way you did Greta Christina lo those many months ago?)

    And do u believe it is unique to religion?

    What difference does that make? Do you have any interest in dealing with Reed’s actual argument, or are you merely interested in red-herring diversions, all the better to distract attention from your dishonesty and privilege?

    If not give other examples.

    A command? Why the hell does she (or any atheist) owe you “other examples”? You’re the one trying to muddy the water of an extremely simple point with silly caviling.

    Im not sure we are talking about the same concept of faith.

    Actually, you haven’t been “talking” about faith at all; you’ve just been waving your hands wildly in the air and accusing atheists of all manner of hatred, in an attempt to change the subject away from faith and religion.

    It would hardly be shocking that you, a Unitarian Universalist, had a difficult time grasping the concept of faith used and applied by billions of people on the planet. UUism is suffused with, if not in fact based upon, Humpty Dumpty semantics that allow UUs to pretend that they can make religious terminology mean absolutely anything they’d like, relieving them (you) of any responsibility to take seriously a single problem that exists in religion.

    You think you can refute Reed’s argument on the grounds that you can redefine “faith” to mean something entirely different? Think again. Religion’s problems don’t go away just because smug liberals think they’ve solved those problems in the arid ivory towers of their own heads.

  40. says

    Here’s the problem: Natalie defined faith pretty clearly in her article. If you think she didn’t define it the way most religions define it, that would be a valid criticism. It would also be valid if you thought that most religions were not faith based. Ignoring her definition, substituting your own, then complaining her criticisms don’t fit your definition is not valid. It’s either a bait-and-switch tactic or a reading comprehension failure.

  41. Rieux says

    Ace:

    Here’s the problem: Natalie defined faith pretty clearly in her article.

    Indeed she did. For example, in this passage:

    Faith is the opposite of skepticism. Faith is “just knowing”. Under ideal circumstances, a person derives their conclusions from observations, facts and thinking things through. If new perspectives, new ideas, new considerations, new arguments, new observations or new facts come along, we adapt the conclusion. Faith asks us instead to work backwards. We have the conclusion already. Thought, perspectives, observations, facts and interpretations are structured to support the conclusion. Facts that contradict it are either denied, or re-interpreted and re-framed until they can fit with the original conclusion. For instance, if the initial conclusion is that God created man and woman, and for a man to don a woman’s clothing is a sin, then suddenly finding yourself trans puts you in conflict with the conclusion your faith states MUST be the case. So instead of reconsidering the initial conclusion, and accepting that maybe the whole God thing isn’t quite right, you either adapt the facts (suppressing your trans identity and attempting to conform) or you re-interpret and contort your perspective until it all fits together somehow. He made you this way because He loves you. He made you this way to test your strength. He made you this way because suffering brings you closer to Him. Etc.

    Faith is dangerous because it is the opposite of thought. Because it deliberately silences, halts, and suppresses thought. It asks us to simply accept, and not to question. It says that evidence is unnecessary. It becomes a belief that is “above” criticism. Therefore any action taken on account of that belief does not need to consider its consequences, its danger, or who it harms. You don’t consider anything at all, really. All the usual intellectual and ethical precautions that keep us from making mistakes get thrown aside. You “just know”. Like George W. Bush “just knew” the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do.

    I do not believe religion is the root of all evil. But I believe absolute certainty is the root of a whole lot of it. The failure to accept the possibility that you have things wrong is the fastest track to doing something terrible. Faith deliberately suppresses the considerations and checks that keep us from absolute certainty.

    That is indeed rather clear.

    Which makes Scofield—who, let us note, authored an attack on that very article—look simply unbelievably arrogant, entitled, and contemptuous for demanding, weeks after Reed wrote said article, that she define “faith” for him again.

    Back to Ace @45:

    Ignoring her definition, substituting your own, then complaining her criticisms don’t fit your definition is not valid. It’s either a bait-and-switch tactic or a reading comprehension failure.

    Scofield’s reading comprehension skills are in some doubt, but my money is on the other possibility you suggest. Unitarian Universalist atheophobes are renowned for their frequent resort to just that sort of childish semantic bait-and-switch. “Your criticisms of religion are wrong because I have idiosyncratic personal definitions of all the words that you used that are different than the definitions you (and of the vast majority of the religious world) are operating from. Q.E.D.”

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