#FtBCon: Video Games, Religion and Morality

Thanks to the tight timing between the Atheist Music panel and our panel, where we had many of the same participants, we ended up turning into a pretty raucous and jovial crowd at the top of the panel while killing time waiting for Ashley and Brianne to join in. That translated into a much looser panel than I was expecting, but I really enjoy those sorts of panels so I encouraged it gladly.

Best single moment for me: Ashley humming the Katamari Damacy theme.

On the parallel universes we apparently cohabitate within the blogosphere

There’s a troll narrative parallel history of the secular movement, I’ve observed. Things that are handled professionally, between professionals, become “harassment and attacks”, and harassment and attacks become “disagreement”. Civil disagreement becomes slurs, slurs become hilarious parody. It all depends on which side of the rift you’re on, and who’s targeting whom.

More blogospheric navel-gazing within. You may want to read this and this and this and unfortunately this for some context.
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Atheism is not enough (pt. 3)

(Continued from part 2)

The Excluded Middle

Tectonic rift at Thingvellir, Iceland. (CC, click for source)

There are certain behaviours and certain tropes that I find myself hard-pressed to defend or accept in people I call friends and allies, and I will call them out on these behaviours in hopes of either swaying them to my position, or of exposing the irrationalities behind our differences. I have attempted to teach myself to look for and to compensate for the Halo Effect, where you unintentionally give extra leeway to someone who’s done something else you agree with. That doesn’t mean being especially harsh with them — it means being consistent with your values and where your lines are drawn.

And yet I am, to borrow a phrase from JT Eberhard, more than willing to employ toilet paper in a divisive manner. We divide ourselves from the religious and call ourselves atheists instead of theists or “agnostic” in order to play nice with theists. I am willing to cleave whole communities in twain to divide from people whose core values are so diametrically opposed to my own. I have heard their arguments and found them wanting — and in the same way that we divide ourselves from the religious, with whom the fundamental difference is our belief in deities, I will divide from the people with whom I have irreconcileable political differences.

Lucky for me, the people on the other sides of these divides are more than happy to oblige. Even if they do blame us disproportionately for the division.
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Atheism is not enough (pt. 2)

(Continued from part 1)

Irreconcilable differences

Tectonic rift at Thingvellir, Iceland. (CC, click for source)

If atheism WAS enough to bind us, if it was a sufficient foundation for our communities, there would be no great rift. There would be no polarization, no in-fighting. There would be no great sorting. People wouldn’t be so willing to throw down the gauntlet over simple advice like “guys, don’t do that”, taking a commonplace anecdote as a personal insult and escalating beyond all reason. There would be no screeds about “feminazis”, there would be no recriminations and accusations leveled without evidence about who’s responsible for downturns in conference attendance. There would be no need to hold people’s feet to the fire over breaches of moral precepts if mere atheism was enough to sustain and build a movement.

But atheism itself implies, as the angrier atheists so vehemently insist, absolutely nothing else about a person outside of their lack of belief in a deity. Nothing, that is, except the consequences of that belief with regard to morality.
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Atheism is not enough (pt 1)

(a three part blog series)

Tectonic rift at Thingvellir, Iceland. (CC, click for source)

Building a Community with Insufficient Data

I keep chewing this thought over in my head, this one nagging meme that got planted there by way of innumerable trolls during innumerable battles in my tenure on the blogosphere. It’s been percolating in my brainpan at least since the inception of the label “Atheism Plus” and the community that coalesced around it. Longer than that, in fact. Playing over and over, like a drum beat.

That thought is, atheism is not enough.

It is good, important, even vital to become an atheist; to free yourself from the intellectual and in some cases physical impediments that religion imposes. But that should be the beginning of a journey into freethinking, not the end of it. Without a god or gods, you have no moral lawgiver, so you have to build your own morality.

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Atheism Plus is just like a religion

Over and over and over again, we’ve heard that the Atheism Plus is driving divisiveness, is tribalistic, and is just like a religion. I’m not really sure how to answer that last one, except to point out that if we didn’t have a point when we say “hey, we have an adoption problem, people are being turned off of atheism by all the douchebags that have entrenched themselves in it”, we wouldn’t be fomenting so much hate from those same self-identified douchebags, would we?
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Bryan Fischer quotes MLK to justify anti-gay bigotry

Just keep it up, you sanctimonious religious ponces. Keep piling on homosexuals, gender-queers, and everyone who isn’t exactly like you. That’ll prove your religion is the religion of peace and understanding and enlightenment.

This time, Bryan Fischer of the AFA misapplies Martin Luther King Jr.’s quotes to justify bigotry against gays. How, you might ask? Apparently, by saying that being judgmental of them is appropriate, because you’re judging them for the “content of their character”.

The problem with this is, first you have to say that being gay is somehow an immoral character choice, and not a happenstance of genetics like, say, skin color. And you should probably try to prove that homosexuality is immoral without using your holy book — if you can — while mentioning MLK, considering how many passages from the very same books used to condemn homosexuality are also used to condone slavery of certain classes of people. You’re not going to twist your way out of this while still using your holy book, but I’d probably enjoy seeing you try.

Just another self-righteous asshole with an inability to empathize with people who are not exactly like themselves. Only this one has a radio show and a following.

Baptist preacher: Beat gender roles into your kids. Literally.

This literally made me sick to my stomach. No hyperbole, I physically choked on my bile over this.

Can we end this gender role shit now, please?! Seriously, here’s a guy who pretends to have better morality than the rest of us, advocating hitting kids for not acting like their societally prescribed gender roles. As though these kids are somehow evil for liking different things. As though liking wearing a dress means the boy is de facto gay, when this kid could be completely heterosexual otherwise. As though being gay is a bad thing to begin with.

This is just fractally wrong.

Update:
The preacher in question is Sean Harris, Senior Pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC. What say we express our outrage via Twitter?

Hat tip Joe.My.God.

A few quick thoughts on gamifying religion

There’s still a lot I need to unpack from this article at Kotaku about gamifying religion. I wanted to get a few thoughts out about the base idea of creating a “morality hub”, a sort of user-driven voting scheme like Reddit where people can submit ideas about what morals should be followed and let the crowd vote up and down what should be prioritized. The corollary idea that the most popular morals become the most valuable (points-wise) morals to express is a bit disturbing.

First, there’s the ever-present fear of people gaming that sort of system, where on the internet, with anonymity, people give in to their baser ideals. Look at those places where giving offense is considered the highest virtue. The integrity of the voting system and the integrity of the submission system is quesitonable from the outset.

Second, there’s the very idea of competing with one another for the ability to do certain “moral” deeds. Must we elbow one another out of the way to tackle the little old lady looking to cross the street? And what of “grinding” certain low-level, easy to complete positive moral actions?

Third, is it really decent morality if you’re doing it for some (earthly or otherwise) reward? If you stop a mugging just because it’ll win you twenty points, is that a net good for society, or would people look for more altruistic reasons to stop that mugging before it’s considered moral?

Gamifying religion seems to suffer from every poor outcome and exploit that video game karma systems do. It might have some benefits in the real world, though. What do you folks think?