Why are you hitting yourself? Part 4: the self-hating 99%

This is part 4 of an ongoing discussion of a paper by Jost, Banaji and Nosek discussing System Justification Theory. Read Part 1Read Part 2. Read Part 3.

In this morning’s installment, we explored the phenomenon of implicit valuation of members of high-status groups. Despite what we may say, or what we may consciously believe about ourselves, our actions reveal subconscious attitudes that we may have. Our wish to approve of, or make excuses for, the status quo of our social lives leads those who are on the top of power gaps to exhibit bias towards themselves. At the same time, that same desire puts those at the bottom of those divides in the somewhat bizarre role of showing the same bias – toward those at the top. This effect is not seen when measuring explicit attitudes – what people are willing to admit to – but shows up when we can find ways to ‘bypass’ conscious processing.

In this installment, I’m going to look explicitly at one aspect of how system justification theory manifests itself: political ideology. [Read more…]

Why are you hitting yourself? Part 3: this post contains implicit content

This is part 3 of an ongoing discussion of a paper by Jost, Banaji and Nosek discussing System Justification Theory. Read Part 1. Read Part 2.

We left off last week looking at the ways that factoring in someone’s desire to approve of the way the world works (“I like things the way they are”) will lead her to defend the status quo, even if that status quo puts her at a disadvantage. The authors suggest 5 different mechanisms by which this effect might be seen: 1) rationalizing observed events by seeing the likely as the desirable; 2) using stereotypes to rationalize differences in power between groups; 3) using stereotypes more often when there is a cognitive ‘threat’ to the status quo; 4) accepting explanations regardless of their legitimacy; and 5) misremembering those explanations as being more legitimate than they are. When these factors work in parallel, we can explain much of the seemingly-idiosyncratic ways in which members of disadvantaged groups will sometimes defend the very system that holds them down.

In this installment, I will be delving into their discussion of what is one of the recurrent themes within my own analysis of racism: the fact that many of these mechanisms operate below the level of conscious awareness. Freud postulated the existence of three separate agents within the mind: the ego, the superego, and the id. His argument was that while conscious beings were able to be aware of their actions, many of the things that influence our behaviour happen without our even realizing it. While this idea has been around for decades and has a great deal of face validity, it is often ignored when we examine why people around us behave the way they do (another psychological concept called the Fundamental Attribution Error). [Read more…]

Why are you hitting yourself? Part 2: Sticking up for the big guy

This is part 2 of an ongoing discussion of a paper by Jost, Banaji and Nosek discussing System Justification Theory. Read Part 1.

We left off the previous post looking at system justification theory, and the intersection of three competing motivations for behaviour: ego (“I like me”), group (“I like us”) and system justification (“I like things the way they are”). People will try to find ways to balance all three of these motives, which often has the result of serving those who are already overprivileged (Tim Wise sagely notes that while the dictionary recognizes ‘underprivileged’ as a word, it is flummoxed into red-squiggleness by ‘overprivileged’). This of course runs contrary to previous models of human behaviour, in which people exhibit preferences for their own group and antipathy to outsiders. With the addition of system justification, we can see that there may in fact be times when low-status people may demonstrate higher levels of out-group favourability.

The paper itself is a narrative walk through 20 specific hypotheses of System Justification theory that have been grouped into subtopics, so I think I will do much the same in these posts.

Hypothesis 1: People will rationalize the (anticipated) status quo by judging likely events to be more desirable than unlikely events (a) even in the absence of personal responsibility, (b) whether those events are initially defined as attractive or unattractive, and (c) especially when motivational involvement is high rather than low.

Translation: the more likely you think something is, the more desirable you think it is. [Read more…]

Why Are You Hitting Yourself? An intro to System Justification Theory

By request, here are links to Part 2Read Part 3Read Part 4Read Part 5. Read Part 6. Read Part 7. Read Part 8.

So I’m not sure what your impression of the way I run things around here is, but let me tell you that my info gathering process is incredibly haphazard. Every morning I browse through the various news sites I read, and pull out articles I find interesting. I do the same at lunch from the blogs I follow. Some items come from Facebook or G+ friends, others get sent to me by readers. Every Saturday morning(ish) I pull out the file of the week’s acquisitions and whittle down to the handful of stories I can make hay with in a week’s worth of posts. Some weeks it’s light, other weeks it’s overflowing and I have to delete stuff I really like (since by the time I get to it, it’ll be comically out of date).

Once in a very rare while, I stumble across something that is a veritable goldmine of bloggable content – something that not only ties together a number of separate ideas I’ve had in the past, but helps me re-orient my thinking along lines that open up new avenues and new questions to explore. Such a goldmine is this paper by Jost, Banaji and Nosek: [Read more…]

Colourism: the sweet juice of racism

One of my favourite authors of all time is a Canadian named Lawrence Hill. He, like me, is of mixed racial heritage. He, like me, struggled with crafting an identity in an era where ‘biracial’ or ‘mixed’ wasn’t really an option. I found his writing a major source of both inspiration and comfort in my teenage years where the race question loomed largest in my life (at least, compared to now). If you haven’t read any of his stuff, I highly recommend you put The Book of Negroes or Any Known Blood on your reading list.

In one of his books Black Berry, Sweet Juice, he riffs on an old racist adage: “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.” The implication is that dark-skinned women are more sexually attractive. Hill wryly completes the rhyme: “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice. But if you get too black, it ain’t no use”, aptly noting that life is much kinder to light-skinned black folks than dark-skinned ones. This is a fact that is well-known within the black community, as both an internal conflict and an external one: [Read more…]

Dressing the part

Since I began scrutinizing race and race issues closely, I’ve found myself returning repeatedly to my (admittedly cursory) knowledge of psychology. I have found the concepts that are described in the scientific literature to be incredibly apt in discussions of racism. Additionally, the often creative study designs used by psychological researchers are readily adaptable in the service of scrutinizing our inherent racial biases and heuristics. They allow us to control for, and reveal, cognitive processes that happen well below the level of our conscious awareness. While regulations against discriminatory hiring practices or forced integration of schools might be sufficient to address overt and obvious racism, the gaps we continue to see along racial lines in employment and education strongly suggest that these measures are insufficient. We must look deeper – to the root causes of racism.

I lay the blame firmly at the feet of our stupid mammal brains. We forge unwarranted connections between variables, weaving false causation from whole cloth. When we see women kept out of the boardrooms, for example, despite the line in our Human Resources policy manual that specifically says we won’t do that, our brains helpfully fill in the blanks for us – obviously women aren’t there because women aren’t supposed to be. I mean, once you remove the most obvious barrier, that’s the same as fixing things, right? If those lazy broads can’t even figure out how to walk in the door we so magnanimously opened for them, we can shift the blame right back to them, can’t we?

Of course we are starting to recognize that this isn’t true, and that these kinds of attitudes lurk well below the surface. This, unfortunately, means that we need to devise increasingly-sophisticated tools to find them. One group of researchers at Tufts University appear to be up to the task: [Read more…]

How DARE you?! Conversations about liberal racism

Being a liberal is often associated, rightly or wrongly, with smugness or an air of superiority. For example, oftentimes this ‘superiority’ is the product of a comprehensive education in the humanities and sciences (dare I say a ‘liberal arts’ education)? When someone makes a reductive claim – attributing outcome A solely to input B – liberals often point out that there are causes C-Z to consider as well. What the reductive claim-maker hears is “you’re stupid and I’m better than you because you didn’t know that”. It is no accident that the forces of anti-intellectualism line up almost exclusively on the right.

But beyond the explanations for why there are reasons why liberals might be seen as arrogant when in fact we aren’t, there certainly does exist some legitimate arrogance that comes from the same source as conservative arrogance, or the sense of superiority manifesting itself in any group. When one associates with only those (or primarily those) that share your group monicker, one begins to believe one’s own propaganda. Tea Party groups really do believe, for example, that they are true patriots who only want government off their backs – that’s because they don’t read the polls that reveal them to simply be the new face of the religious right. Religious groups really do believe, as another example, that theirs is the ‘true’ interpretation of the holy books – that’s because they don’t recognize that their ‘proofs’ of their deity are the same as those of a competing group.

With liberals, the most vexing of these myths is the one about racism being ‘their’ problem. Namely, that being liberal makes you vouchsafed from racist thoughts or ideas. I can understand where this myth comes from. Conservatism, particularly when it comes to immigration and civil rights, is always on the side of the status quo – hence the name. Because an argument against allowing immigrants (which is often an argument against allowing certain immigrants) access to citizenship always carries with it the stench of anti-brown bigotry, those on the conservative side end up holding the bag for racism and xenophobia. The same goes for civil rights and access – it was conservatives opposing the Civil Rights Act, it was (and is) conservatives opposing lesbian/gay marriage rights, which leaves them tagged with repeated instances of bigotry.

Because liberals have been on the other side of these fights (by and large), liberals have become comfortable with the assumption that adopting this political stance is impervious armour against accusations of thoughtcrime. Indeed, when having drinks with a colleague and discussing politics, he made some offhand remark about how as liberals, we had to overcome racism from the right. He was visibly first confused, then alarmed when I suggested to him that, in fact, liberals are racist too. It might not look the same as conservative racism, but it still has the same effect.

It was with these thoughts in the back of my mind that I read this piece in The Nation:

Electoral racism in its most naked, egregious and aggressive form is the unwillingness of white Americans to vote for a black candidate regardless of the candidate’s qualifications, ideology or party. This form of racism was a standard feature of American politics for much of the twentieth century. So far, Barack Obama has been involved in two elections that suggest that such racism is no longer operative. His re-election bid, however, may indicate that a more insidious form of racism has come to replace it.

In it, Dr. Harris-Perry (who I follow on Twitter) lays out an argument for why white voters, who supported Barack Obama in the first election, may be abandoning him now at a greater rate than they did President Clinton in the 90’s – despite the many political and situational similarities between the two. Given that so many of the ostensible reasons for withdrawing support are balanced between the two administrations, racism may explain, at least in part, any differences in voter support and approval. It’s hard to argue that race and racism have not played a role in this particular presidency far more than in others.

Because I liked both this article and a related one that more closely explored the racial attitudes of Bill Clinton more specifically and liberals more generally, I fired a quick message to Dr. Harris-Perry in support, because I knew that she was taking quite a bit of flack for her audacious temerity to suggest that liberals weren’t the immaculate paragons of fairness that we make ourselves out to be. Basically, just a “hey, I liked your piece in the Nation.” Didn’t even get a reply. No biggie.

It was a few short hours before a friend of mine sent me a seemingly-indignant message, asking me to defend my support for Harris-Perry’s article. She/he had procured statistics suggesting that all presidents lose favourability in their first terms (which the article doesn’t dispute), and that she/he saw more differences between the two presidencies than the article had pointed out. When I replied, briefly, that the article was more about the attitude I have described above, she/he challenged me to provide data demonstrating the racism at play. It was at this point that I simply gave up, as I wasn’t really interested in defending someone else’s work while trying to eat my dinner, and the article in question talked about the next election, not the current polling.

This exchange wouldn’t be unusual, except that I happen to know that this person is a regular reader. I say all kinds of unsubstantiated shit on these pages pretty much every day. While I do my best, I don’t always provide full citations for my conclusions or speculations, leaving it up to the reader to dispute them. Most of the time, this particular friend chooses not to dispute, even when I am talking about racial topics. However, this particular statement – a throwaway line of congratulations in a Tweet – stuck in her/his craw long enough that she/he went stats hunting.

So in the same way that Harris-Perry has done, I am openly speculating here that this kind of “prove it” attitude from liberals who spontaneously become skeptical whenever they have a dog in the fight (which, by the way, Harris-Perry wrote another piece about), comes at least in part from the cognitive dissonance at play when they are accused of racism. “I couldn’t possibly be racist,” they say, as though being liberal means you were raised on a different planet. We are all products of the same system. If someone points out that a behaviour has racial connotations, instead of reflexively reaching for counterexamples, perhaps take the time to consider the possibility, and engage in the argument that person is making, rather than the one you hear through your rage.

I will close with Dr. Harris-Perry’s words:

Racism is not the the sole domain of Republicans, Conservatives or Southerners. Not all racists pepper their conversation with the N-word or secretly desire the extermination of black and brown people. Racism is complex, multi-layered, and deeply rooted in the American story. Name calling is not helpful in uprooting racism, but neither is a false sense of moral superiority.

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The god of the glass

Back when I was in my younger teen years I used to love playing a game for Nintendo called Secret of Mana. Toward the end of the game, you have to battle against clones of your own character in order to complete a particular dungeon. This battle was always necessarily the most difficult in the game, because the clone of you had all of your abilities. It meant that unlike other enemies in the game, you couldn’t gain experience or items that would tip the scales in your favour if the fight was too difficult on first pass. The opponent was always your equal, meaning you had to rely on your superior abilities to carry the day. I wasn’t (and am still not) a very good gamer, so this part was always tough for me.

I was reminded of my frustration with this battle against one’s self when I saw this article:

People often reason egocentrically about others’ beliefs, using their own beliefs as an inductive guide. Correlational, experimental, and neuroimaging evidence suggests that people may be even more egocentric when reasoning about a religious agent’s beliefs (e.g., God). In both nationally representative and more local samples, people’s own beliefs on important social and ethical issues were consistently correlated more strongly with estimates of God’s beliefs than with estimates of other people’s beliefs (Studies 1–4).

In particular, reasoning about God’s beliefs activated areas associated with self-referential thinking more so than did reasoning about another person’s beliefs. Believers commonly use inferences about God’s beliefs as a moral compass, but that compass appears especially dependent on one’s own existing beliefs.

(I find HTML journal articles very difficult to read. A .pdf version is available here)

I hinted at this during last week’s Movie Friday, suggesting that when someone talks about their ‘personal relationship’ with whatever deity they happen to worship, there are always discrepant accounts of what that deity values. This is quite inconsistent with the idea that there is an actual entity out there, but fits exactly with the hypothesis that people have a ‘personal relationship’ with something within their own heads. I’ve made this more explicit in the phrase “Ask 100 people for a definition of god, get 200 answers” – referencing the fact that the gods people claim to believe in almost always turn into something much more mushy and deistic under direct scrutiny. The authors of this study have done the scientifically responsible thing and made fun of religious people on a blog actually conducted some research.

In the first study, the researchers asked people to report their own beliefs, those of a person they do not know personally, and those of their god. Keep in mind that if there were some external standard (god), the level of correlation between people’s own evaluations and that external standard would vary. After all, not everyone agrees with homosexuality or capital punishment or abortion, or any number of topics. What they found instead was that there was a consistently strong correlation between whatever the respondent happened to believe, and what they thought their god believed. Once again, surprising if you believe in a supernatural source of absolute morality that communicates with humans, completely expected if you recognize what it looks like when people talk to themselves.

The facile rejoinder to this would sound something like this:

True followers of YahwAlladdha spoke the truth about those topics, whereas those who are not real _______ only spoke what was in their own heads. What this study demonstrated is nothing more than the fact that some people are not sincere believers.

Luckily, there is a way to test this hypothesis too. If this was indeed the case, then the sincere believers would not change their minds, whereas the convictions of those who are just faking it (or worse, believing in the wrong version of YahwAlladdha) would shift to fit the circumstances. After all, the sincere believers have direct communication with the divine, who is unchanging and absolute. The scientists had participants read arguments for and against a policy (in this case, affirmative action) and rate how strong they felt the arguments were. Then they were asked to rate their opinion of the topic, as well as the fictitious people’s opinion, and then God’s.

As we can see from the graph, those that opposed the policy (the anti-policy group) felt that their god disapproved just as much. Those who had been manipulated to support the policy (keep in mind these were randomized groups, so their position before reading the arguments would have been the same) felt that their god did too. Interestingly, this effect was not seen in how participants thought the average person felt – suggesting that evaluations of the average person are not quite as egocentric as evaluations of YahwAlladdha. This effect was further explored by having people read speeches that either supported or opposed the position they held on the death penalty, which has the effect of polarizing agreement and moderating disagreement. Again, after being manipulated into a position, the participants’ expectation of what their god supports changed right alongside.

Finally, if that wasn’t enough evidence that the ‘personal relationship’ is about as personal as it could be (i.e., just a reflection of your own beliefs), the investigators hauled out a functional MRI (fMRI) scan. Brain activity when considering one’s own beliefs was different than when participants considered the beliefs of other people. However, as you might have expected from the above experiments, when people thought about what their god wanted the pattern of activity was the same as when thinking about themselves. Not only are the content of the beliefs identical, but so too is the method by which believers arrive at them.

None of this is proof that a god doesn’t exist – such a thing is logically impossible and wildly uninteresting (I will explain this on Monday). What it does prove, however, is that people do not get their morality from direct communication with the Holy Spirit or any other kind of supernatural entity. Moral attitudes come from a variety of sources, none of which point to non-material origin. While people may get their moral instruction from religion (in a “do this, don’t do that” kind of way), it is not because of an entity which embodies absolute morality and communicates said morality through prayer.

I am still curious how believers deal with things they disagree with, but which they are told are commanded by their god. Do anti-gay activists legitimately hate gay people, or are they just following the instructions from the pulpit? Are the religious teachings to blame for the evils committed by religious adherents, or are they just a smokescreen used to justify underlying organic hatred and spitefulness? Whatever the answer, those of us hoping to deal with those who believe their cause is divinely justified have to confront the truth that we are not just fighting against the concept a god – we are fighting against the concept of a god that takes shape in the mirror.

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London burns: what it is and what it ain’t

So this will be a fairly ambitious endeavour for me. All of you are no doubt aware of the rioting that has plagued London for the past week. I am going to try and summarize what I think is an incredibly complex issue in the span of a single blog post. Unlike other Monday think pieces, this one is going to have a lot of links to other articles, because they’re relevant.

The riots were supposedly touched off by protest over the apparent murder of a young black father by police officers. The police claimed that the man had an illegal weapon and fired on them. Forensic investigation subsequently revealed that no gunfire was exchanged – the man had been shot twice by bullets from a police-issue weapon and the gun that supposedly belonged to the deceased, while illegal, had not been fired. In an attitude typical of police, the first instinct was to protect the officers instead of upholding the law. Outraged citizens, mostly black, took to the streets to protest, and that protest turned into a riot.

Many are trying to make this riot into a racial issue:

Operation Trident which was set up in 1998 to specifically deal with gun crime related to drug activity within London’s black community — is itself controversial among some sections of the black community. Even though Trident was set up by black activists to tackle so-called black-on-black killings, few of the police officers within the unit are black, and some see Trident as being just another way in which the police can oppress young black men who are already disproportionately targeted for criminal behavior.

Mark Duggan’s death seemed to touch a raw nerve, coming just months after another controversial police-related death of yet another black man, a British reggae artist known as Smiley Culture. A peaceful protest about Duggan’s death turned violent. From then on, the violence has escalated.

It is tempting to compare this outrage to what happened in Los Angeles following the acquittal of police officers in the Rodney King trial. There are certainly many parallels between that situation and London: a marginalized and brutalized minority population who are distrusted and underserved by their government; an attitude by police of extreme racism; lack of representation in the halls of power. However, the rioting quickly grew far past anything that can be attributed to a disgruntled minority group:

The uncomfortable question since the beginning of the disturbances on Saturday night, however, has been the degree to which tensions between different ethnic communities, and wider issues of race and cultural alienation, have played a part in some local areas. The answer, observers warn, is a complex and multifaceted one, in an area where simplistic judgments can be dangerous. “Where communities are already divided along ethnic lines, there is of course a tendency to hunker down,” says Rob Berkeley, director of the Runnymede Trust, which researches issues of race and equality. “But what I’m struggling with is that there is so much that we don’t know. I don’t know if what goes on in West Bromwich is anything to do with what happens in Birmingham, or if the Woolwich riots were organised but the Croydon ones were not.

Most frightening to me is that there are people using the racial tension as an excuse to expand their own small-minded agendas:

Far-right groups have sought to exploit the tensions. The BNP says it will hold its “biggest ever day of action” this weekend and has published a leaflet titled: Looter beware: British defenders protect this area. The EDL claims its supporters are organising across the country and will provide “a strong physical presence, and discourage troublemakers from gathering in our town and city centres”.

While the outrage may have germinated around a seed of racial resentment, it spread so quickly and violently that this is not a satisfactory explanation. A better explanation is needed; certainly one that is better than the line of stupidity coming from Downing street, with Prime Minister David Cameron bemoaning the lack of active parenting and seeking to explain the crime by attributing it to ‘criminals’. The problem, of course, with this line of reasoning is that many of these people probably weren’t criminals before they committed these crimes. Labeling them post hoc as ‘criminals’ is circular, and therefore useless as an explanation. It doesn’t appear to be particularly accurate either:

“Some of the parents were there. For some parents it was no big surprise their kids were there. They’ve gone through this all their lives,” said an Afro-Caribbean man of 22 who gave his name as “L”, voicing the frustration and anger felt by youth and parents over yawning inequalities in wealth and opportunity. “I was on the train today in my work clothes and shoes. All different types took part in the riot. The man next to me was saying everyone who rioted should be gassed. He would never have guessed that I was there, that I took part,” he said.

Many have tried to attribute much of the anger at police to the way they treat minority group members, while others have pointed to the social system, to the power of the welfare state, to raw criminality, bad parenting… many explanations have been thrown out.

So too, it seems, has any pretense at maintaining the liberal democratic tradition:

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street following an emergency security meeting Wednesday, the prime minister noted that the addition of 10,000 police, for a total of 16,000, on the streets of London on Tuesday night and into the morning had helped curtail the violence. “Whatever resources the police need, they will get. Whatever tactics the police feel they need to employ, they’ll have legal backing to do so,” he told reporters.

Anyone who isn’t immediately terrified by the prospect of police having unchecked powers to punish crimes is clearly living in a world of unchallenged assumptions about the credibility of law enforcement.While Vancouver police have been facing heightening criticism for failing to charge more people after the riots here, I applaud them for not rushing to judgment and waiting to have solid evidence before seeking convictions. The UK police seem to be under no constraint of legal due process, and have already arrested and charged hundreds of people:

“Picture by picture these criminals are being identified and arrested and we will not let any phoney concerns about human rights get in the way of the publication of the pictures and the arrest of these individuals,” Cameron said.

The emphasis on that quote is mine. The horror should be all of ours to share.

So if it isn’t race, or criminal minds, or just the thrill of smash and grab, what happened in London to make this happen? We may never know what the one cause that set off the ripple of rioting, and it’s unlikely that there is one cause. Likely, like any other mass spontaneous uprising (like what’s happening in the middle east), there are a variety of overlapping factors that came to a head at one point, causing a tectonic-like reaction. It seems, however, that the most fruitful avenue of explanation is to ask people on the ground what they think. From outside it is easy to attempt to explain, and you can probably find a sympathetic ear for just about any crazy theory. Until the people from the streets start speaking and telling their stories, all we can do is make a handful of guesses and wait for the flames to die down.

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Movie Friday: An Epiphany

This blog is getting more and more race-y and less and less religion-y. Don’t think it hasn’t escaped my notice. I approach blogging in a sort of Taoist way, letting the items that crop up in the news and in my random online pokings around direct the content and focus of my posts. I know some of you came here when I was on a particular anti-theist binge, and I hope I haven’t bored you too much.

But there’s always movie Friday, right?

I like this video a lot for a few reasons. First, it does a pretty good job of debunking the frustratingly-common question I hear from theists when I criticize the concept of a god: “why are you so anti-God?” or “why do you reject God” I don’t reject the gods, I reject the idea of them because they are some combination of incoherent and evidenceless. For example, I don’t believe in Yahweh/Allah because He is described as merciful, kind and all-powerful, a portrayal which is not reflected in reality at all. I don’t believe in the Hindu gods because natural phenomena explain all the things that are supposedly the domain of the gods. Ditto for the Greek and Egyptian and Norse pantheons. I don’t see any evidence for the Buddhist cycle of rebirth, and the deist non-interventional god I used to believe in is entirely superfluous, and so might as well not exist. To call that rejection of your personal understanding of whatever god you believe in is taking things too personally – I “reject” all gods for the same reason – I don’t believe they exist.

Second, it posits a possible explanation for why believers see non-belief as ‘rejection’ rather than nonbelief. People’s god concepts are very real to them, and DarkMatter suggests a mechanism to explain why this is true: because people’s god concepts are simply reflections of themselves. I’ve long suspected that people twist the concept of a god to reflect what’s in themselves, but there’s a bit of a chicken-egg thing wherein people are taught what their god wants, which helps inform what they believe later. This video provides some support to the idea that God is personal. As Heinlein put it: “thou art god”.

Finally, there’s a really cool question that comes up from this video that I’d like to try asking a theist. Is there anything that God commands you to believe that you personally disagree with? Are there any instructions that you find immoral but follow anyway? Are there any things you believe that you recognize are absurd but adhere to because you think your god requires it? I know this was a major source of dissonance for me when I was a teenager – so many teachings of the Catholic church were completely abhorrent to me, but I was told I had to believe them. My solution was to reject the abhorrent teachings as simply a product of human stupidity, which was the first major step I took toward leaving theism altogether.

I am fairly certain that hardly any theists read this blog (I am only aware of 2 theistic commenters), but if you get a chance to have a conversation with someone – particularly someone who is a mushy ‘liberal’ theist, see what their reactions are to the question. I’d really like to hear the responses.

Anyway, next week will be no exception to the flood of race-specific stuff. I plan to opine on the riots in England, talk about some hate crimes, and hopefully finally get to tackle the issue of poverty that I’ve been wanting to talk about for months now. Don’t fret though – I haven’t run out of anti-theist rage and will return to my old form soon.

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