People Are All Crazy! Then What?

Had a conversation today that put me in mind of this post I wrote.  Like in that one, this one has to contain ableist language, but hopefully not be seen as an endorsement of such, or an invitation to do that in my comment section.  In fact, read that post first, because I don’t wanna repeat the same junk.  Long story short, what if the things we rate as cognitive deficits and malfunctions are vastly vastly more commonplace than we assume?  What if, as an emotionally stable person without any major risk of delusions, you were in a minority?  Can we sane few right the world gone mad?  Can we steer this ship of fools unto the safe harbor of sanity?

Nope.  There are no cures for most of what can ail a mind, just a life of care and carefulness.  Assuming we are even fortunate enough to know how bonkers we are.  A lot of people who are walking around assuming they are fairly normal or similar to others, not susceptible to delusions, are one weird day away from joining a cult and giving their lives over to it.  One moment away from being told “the truth” on a facebook post and forever thinking something that would make a gullible child look twice.

Atrocity Guide on yewchoob has a video about a cult that includes interviews with an ex-member who got out and is doing well.  Nice.  But what happened?  At a seminar the cult leader gave, he saw a golden light radiating from the man.  The deeper he got into it, the more impossible things he bore witness to.  And yet, on the other side, he realized those were all hallucinations, provoked through the power of suggestion.  Hearing this sensible guy say these things, you have to wonder, could it happen to me?

If it’s never happened to you before, well, probably not.  I think some people just have wild imaginations, or are more prone to influence.  But who knows?  Also, as you age, who is to say how your faculties might change?  As an atheistical type, formerly of the fiery brand, I used to imagine we could eliminate magical thinking from the world by getting everybody hip to philosophical materialism.  The holes in the logic of religion are trivially easy to point out, to talk under the table.

But nobody is impervious to bullshit, and it’s so pervasive in the world that it deforms the perception of reality on an everyday basis for vast swathes of humanity.  They’ll never buy reality because the fantasy everybody around them was taught every day forever just feels more correct, in their hearts.  Words to the contrary, they just sound like silly noises.  Maybe they don’t have the exact words to argue against you in the moment, but they’re sure somebody smarter in the faith, some preacher would be able to get you to see the light.  Because they have the same point of view as I do, at the end of the day.  Their truth is so obviously self-evident, it doesn’t need a rationale.  You don’t see me doing atheist apologetics much.  We all know what’s what, right?

The misguided person I spoke with today, she felt mighty foolish and didn’t know what to do with herself.  Not her fault.  I got the same conclusion here as I did before, but feel it more today than the last time I wrote it.  We need laws against lying.  The ACLU will say no, reaching across the aisle to join hands with political propagandists and corporate salesfuckos, but nay.

We can’t prevent all types of exploitation forever, we can’t protect people from themselves perfectly, but if human life and well-being has any value at all, we, as a society must find a way to reduce the harm caused by dishonest persuasion, better than we do now.  It’s like how we have laws against murder, knowing full well it will still happen at some point, no matter what we do.  But the laws give us a mechanism of enforcement, a disincentive.  Right now, in the USA, you’re literally praised for being the biggest con artist.  It’s fucked up and I hate it.

still atheist

if there is a god that is good, it would not condemn people for the crime of disbelieving the unbelievable.  if there is a god that condemns people for disbelieving the unbelievable, that is an evil god, and the very bravest way you can live your life is in utter defiance of such a being.  amirite ladies?  old idea, i know, but worth stating out loud from time to time.

No Regrets in The Struggle

THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE FtBlogger atop all the main page categories of FtB articlesGimme the prize!

Anyway, I just flew in from Social Justice and boy are my arms tired.  I mean airplane food, amirite?  Wocka wocka.

Some of my articles in this series have been quasi-thoughtful, but I’m running out of power.  What can I do?  Social justice, social justice, what can I say about that?

You know, there’s an idea you would sometimes see come up in comments in the early days of the Deep Rifts 2.0, when many of us were becoming “woke” for the first time.  It was a sense of gratitude that women were bringing to light the way they’d been mistreated, that it was opening up all these other conversations, and that this would give us a chance to become better people.  To truly realize the equality we’d always just assumed was part of the movement, in contradistinction to the naked sexism of christian fundies.  I just want to bring that gratitude back for a moment.

I love that we broke up the atheist movement.  The crudlords and fogies are still out there, somewhere, embarrassing themselves in Elon’s Thunderdome.  But they forever have to sit there in full awareness that they have been rebuked.  That a sizeable chunk of their former bedfellows just said “Fuck Y’all” and never looked back.  Everybody said their piece, then went their separate ways.

Can they even understand what we feel?  I don’ t think they can.  Dawkins can only conceive of this as us being led astray, bewitched by the sorcery of women in glasses and colorful hair.  He doesn’t know how good it is to look at society as it really is, the same way he’d look at the physical world as it really is, and know what you’re going to do with that, do with your time here.  We’re gonna be good, as good as we can be.  We’ll make mistakes but we’ll learn, because yeah, we woke up to the importance of social justice.

I’m still proud to be an SJW.  Power on, comrades.

The Ivory Tower

I won’t say I woke up this morning with a mission because that would imply I slept last night, but now I’m trying to write an article in each of the categories of FtB articles. There are some categories in which I rarely appear.  I’m a BFA, I shouldn’t talk about science.  But I’m gonna talk about science.

I think Chunderf00l said it best, when he did a video about how Ivory Tower shouldn’t be derogatory for science boyz because ivory towers are cool and shiny and hold up THA TROOF for all to see.  Then he switched gears to chortling through his tears about Anita Sarkeesian for a decade.  Yewchoob atheism, amirite?  Is this thing on?

Science can be real cool.  I think my favorite blog ever has to be Tetrapod Zoology.  The universe, especially at the very local level of this planet, is chock full of interesting shit.  Some of it is beautiful and inspiring, and so there’s a tendency to latch onto that, as the tool to promote a sort of positive atheism.  We don’t need the majesty of some false vision of glorious afterlife, we can marvel at the world we inhabit to feel inspired.

But science is always a mixed bag.  Darwin knew it.  Nature is full of fucked up repugnant shit.  There are animals that can only reproduce like the fucken Alien xenomorph, their entire existence predicated on nightmarish cruelty.  Not just a species here or there, but clades full of species that do the same nasty nasty.  And within our own lives, we can marvel at human beauty and compassion, but are also stuck in a species with fucking millions upon millions of actual fascist motherfuckers.  Brains so ugly they can turn you to stone.

I don’t think there is an inspiring or magical or fun version of atheism, frankly.  Sorry, Ivory Tower.  Sorry, Science.  Philosophical materialism has one solitary advantage over all religions.  It’s true, and it is brave to look at things as they actually are, to deal with the world you actually live in.  That bravery makes it possible to do greater things than any religious person is capable of – to give of yourself fully knowing how precious every second of your brief life is – but it doesn’t guarantee that we will do those great things.  Many of us are just unreconstructed shitbirds.  But we love us some science!

The Religious Stage

I was gradually failing high school in the ’90s and in an effort to make up credits I took some college classes in the summer.  My Philosophy 81 course (lol) was kinda influential on me, had me calling myself an agnostic instead of an atheist for like, twenty-five years?

Anyway, that class surveyed the landscape of Western philosophy without getting into a lot of depth on any of it.  As part of that, we looked at the recurring themes in the field.  There was the search for “substance,” the way to live a “good” life, logicking one’s way to god, and more.

More than one philosopher had ideas that a human life moves through set stages, like we’re all on our own Hero’s JourneyKierkegaard got a closer look, and the last of his stages was The Religious Stage.  I don’t remember particulars, but the idea was something like, when you’ve done all the big things in life and all that’s left is to look upon death, you will inevitably come back to god.

I had my sixteenth birthday in that class, was obnoxiously confident about my own philosophical materialism, and didn’t cotton to being told I would someday fogey into submission to the Invisible Tyrant.  What would you do?

At least the professor didn’t act like all these dead white guys had the truth on lock, unlike my Philo 101 teacher at the art school, who – fucking absurdly – found Descartes’ ontological argument completely irrefutable.  I rattled off three counter arguments in three minutes and he had the placid, glazed, uncomprehending expression of a true fucking zombie.

But no, I’m closer to fifty than forty.  Jeezis here I come…

Negative Revelation

People will say they believe in god because of a convincing personal experience – the argument from personal revelation.  Interestingly (to me at least) googling this phrase yields mostly atheists talking about debate, but one highly ranked result is theist-on-theist bloodshed.  Some creep saying why “jesus personally told me it’s cool to be trans” is not legitimate because it’s an argument from personal revelation.

As for me?  I long ago decided logic and reason and debate are not much use against theism, or even advocating atheism.  Motivated reasoning is strong.  Your case can be ironclad and even if the theist is stumped, in that moment, they weren’t convinced in their feelings, which is the only place that ultimately matters.  Time erodes the momentary uncertainty you induced, and within a week they don’t even remember the particulars of what you said.

And even when somebody does say they were convinced by logic, which came first?  The logic or the feeling of the logic’s legitimacy?  There’s a tension in that, and probably more factors that fed into the conversion than the rationale alone.  Not to say you should give that all up forever, just that you understand why it’s not as effective as it should be, if we were purely rational agents.  And more than that, to preface my own personal revelation.

Personal revelation for a theist is a feeling or vision that powerfully convinces them of a god’s reality and effect on their own life.  While as an atheist I would never experience a convincing vision – I’d sooner assume I was having a neurological problem – I can get a powerfully convincing feeling.  If that counts as a personal revelation, then I have absolutely come to atheism by way of personal revelation.

For a lot of years I identified as agnostic, because verifiable knowledge coming from fallible grey matter seems logically impossible to me.  But I had a strong feeling of philosophical materialism, and that feeling alone pushed me away from that shyness.  Yeah, I’m an atheist.  Now the only thing keeping me from saying that with pride is the behavior of famous atheists, haha.

One time when I was homeless child – maybe seven? – my family was temporarily staying in a hotel, and got our hands on some free bibles.  Hey, that’s kind of exciting.  Free stuff.  The thin paper and tiny print was interesting, the bold assertions within more convincing than the mealy-mouthed version that made a pre-school atheist out of me.  So I played at being christian for a few days.  I don’t remember what made that fall away – boredom? – but I do remember it was a thorough rejection in the end.

I’ve always had a strong feeling of the material reality around me, and its indifference to my desires.  Might be why the idea of levitation appeals to me, as a primal emotion that escapes from the otherwise constant feeling of literal gravity.  This feeling has reached peaks, moments of reality so stark and cold that I had no choice but to believe in my heart that god doesn’t exist, that magic doesn’t exist, that humans have no inherent connection that bridges our experience of life – nothing but imagination and the broken working of society.

These are the moments of negative personal revelation, when UnGod came unto me in a cloud of nothing and I received his word and his truth.  I’ve mentioned a few in my blog history, see which ones you remember!  Roughly in order,

One came when I failed to graduate high school, and everyone disappeared into their adult lives, whatever those would be, reminding me that I have no social importance except that which I painstakingly create and maintain.

Several came over the years, whenever the religious tried one-on-one to get me to feel what they feel, in parking lots and bus stops, and almost always in cold dark weather.

One came when I first had major surgery and experienced nonexistence under anesthesia.

One came when Child Protective Services took my first niece from my dad, because the jesus nazis from rural minnesota were more amenable to keeping her dangerous sociopath mom in her life.  That was the most direct confrontation with human evil I ever experienced, and had me dig under my fingernails til they bled.

One came while walking home from work at Pizza Hut, and made a foolish deal with the devil, because the unmagic of the world was so overbearing in that one random moment.

One came when my worst girlfriend ever dumped me and I took it poorly, gradually burning away every romantic instinct I felt until that version of love was fully dead to me.

One came on a vacation I took alone to a cold place in the dead of winter, again well exposed to my complete insignificance.

Loneliness is a recurring theme here.  I wonder that the most religious might be the most socially insulated?  That doesn’t track with the image of the average saint or prophet.  But loneliness, and even sadness, doesn’t count for all of it.  I’ve just had a profoundly, deeply, overpoweringly mundane life.  Not mundane as a synonym for boredom, just for the material, the earthen, the real.  The wildest moments gravity was always with me, telling me what’s up, and more importantly what’s down.

I am an atheist because that’s what my experience of life has told me to be, and nobody was there to give me the cultural static that would drown out or pervert that experience.  Negative revelation.

The Miracle of Faith

Isn’t it miraculous how we religious types can believe in something that runs counter to everything that makes sense in our experience of life?  Isn’t faith amazing?  Sometimes religious people will marvel aloud at how amazing it is that they can believe in super-ghosts, and it’s usually phrased something like that.  Of course, the atheo-skeptic finds that less beautiful than horrifying, seeing the close kinship between religious persuasion and medical woo, con artistry, and trumpism.

(Sometimes the “miracle of faith” is termed more like “the mystery of faith,” to give it the air of an intellectual enterprise, but also one that defies answer, thus shutting down earnest inquiry.  It’s slightly more humble in its way, even if it’s cheap.)

To which progressive theists would have a reasonable counter argument, lovingly provided by our atheist “thought leaders” and their slide into fascism.  Does atheism really afford any protection at all from faulty reason?  If so, should we fear or revile religious thought?  Aside from the fact that argument just doesn’t feel right to me, I can’t say I’m ready to shoot it down.

The conclusion this dialogue is leading me toward is one of total disillusionment with the powers of the human mind.  Just assume everyone, including yourself, is broke as hell in the headpiece, and the best you can hope to do is paw in the dark for a less-than-harmful consensus with your peers.  This, unfortunately, weakens one’s power of persuasion, as people respond more emotionally to bold and reductive statements than positions couched in caveats, asides, and uncertainty.

I don’t love that.  I’d love to spout Universal Truths like a demagogue and rally the warriors to the cause of righteousness.  Shit just tends to be more complicated than that.

Hellstar Reminism

So I got a philosophy for the end of the world inspired by a Junji Ito comic, Hellstar Remina, in some translations just the less fun Remina.  I’ve still never read the comic in English, so it’s based on my visual read of the story.  I’ll soon check out the translation to see what I’ve missed.  At that time, this idea may face some revision.  By the way, all of the spoilers for Hellstar Remina now, because it’s necessary to explaining the moral lesson I take from it.

Like a number of Junji Ito’s horror manga, Hellstar Remina depicts an apocalypse.  The planet Earth and most of its inhabitants don’t get through the story alive.  But this one was especially interesting to me because it shows different ways to respond to a species-level existential threat.  As a storyteller, Ito has long held an interesting tension between humanism and misanthropy – something shared with filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa.  I wonder if this is just an attitude some dark-minded Japanese folks have and a known thing there, or if it’s just something anybody in the world might develop at random.

Basically, the way humans can be quite horrible is displayed unvarnished, or even exaggerated, but compassion and sometimes progressive values come through in other characters within the same story.  This isn’t always as simple as good guys over here, bad guys over there.  People start good, go bad, come back, do it again.  Usually you understand why the bad do what they do – see them as human, even when they end up as literal monsters.  Hard to describe, not always the same.  This might be getting off topic, because good and evil are a little more straightforward in this story than the extended canon of Tomie or Uzumaki.  Whatever, moving on…

The plot.  A scientist announces the discovery of a very abnormal new star in the night sky, with his daughter at the press conference.  I believe he named the star after her, causing an association in the public imagination between the girl and the star.  But pretty quickly, the star is revealed to be a possible threat to the Earth – heading toward it at incredible speed.  Is it a star?  Meanwhile, this doesn’t seem to be public knowledge yet, and Remina the girl has developed a fan club.  In particular she has three suitors.  One is a rich kid that shows her to his cool expensive fallout shelter.  But they seem to do a passable job of not monopolizing her affections yet.

The threat of the hellstar becomes apparent to the public and civic unrest menaces the scientist and his daughter.  Her fan club saves her, for the moment, but she’s separated from her father.  When the star slows down to stick out a giant tongue and gobble up another planet in the solar system, the people of the world go bonkers and come for girl Remina’s blood.  They kill the a couple of fan club guys and torture her for a bit.  Her father is killed.

The fanboys help her escape but they fall to infighting.  Seems they got a touch of the same craze as the rest of the world.  One of them has the sense of self to feel ashamed and leaves, but he didn’t have the presence of mind to realize that he left her undefended with the worse guy.  (He shows up later as just another murderer.)  Worse guy is the rich kid, and he hauls her back to the fancy shelter.  He tries to force himself on her, but his parents object.  They just want her dead like the rest of the world.  Mom slaps her around, then the fam drag her out to the crowd.

The story splits here between rich family and Remina.  Rich family theorizes that if they go to live on the Hellstar like fleas, it won’t notice them and destroy them like the rest of the world, so they pack up in a rocket ship and skate.  Back on earth, girl Remina is taken by the people of Earth, who have united in a massive doomsday cult, led by KKK-lookin’ creeps with torches.  She escapes them briefly, running into a solitary homeless man who has no idea what’s going on.  The two of them are tied to either side of the same cross that carries the burned remains of her father.

In space, the rich family set foot on the Hellstar and transform into melty piles of twisted bullshit.  HS Remina opens a second eyeball and licks the Earth.  This causes gravity to go haywire.  The cultists had set a pyre beneath girl Remina’s cross, but the cross gets lifted away.  A cultist cuts Remina loose to abscond with her.  The gravity of the Hellstar and Earth are dueling, which has people able to leap around like they have super strength.  Don’t get at me on the physics of this.  The cultist grabs Remina by the legs and smashes her against the sides of a broken building, like trying to dust a rug.

But he cut the homeless guy loose when he snatched Remina, and that guy comes to save her with roundhouse kicks and such.  Together they flee the cultists.  But as they’ve gotten used to the crazy light gravity, so have the cultists, and now they are being chased by what seems like everybody in the world, all crying for her blood in different languages, wielding any weapon they can find.  They’re flying through the air in a massive swarm.

Gravity shifts again.  The homeless guy and Remina seem to luck out, while the rest of humanity is dashed to the ground, creating an ocean of blood.  Girl Remina blacks out and wakes up in the fancy shelter.  The homeless guy and a few random non-murderer kids found their way into the shelter, and as Hellstar Remina devoured the earth, somehow the shelter was one of the crumbs that broke free to hurtle lonesome through space.  People are surprisingly celebratory about this.

Why are they happy?  They got away from however many billion murderers, and a planet that was just munched like popcorn.  But the room surely doesn’t have the resources to sustain their lives forever.  They’re surely going to die.  And that could well be all of us.  The story ends there.  What do you take from that?

I say, if everybody in the world is doing bad shit, be the one person who isn’t.  If we’re all gonna die, be kind to the people you are with, right to the end.  Ruin is living for hate, the only goodness possible in life is what we make by being kind in the ways we can, in the time we have.  Something like that.  Hellstar Reminism.

One could easily take different lessons from the story, perhaps worse ones.  And maybe there are explicit textual things I cannot understand from reading the comic book by image alone.  I’ll find out soon enough, which is why I’m spelling out this philosophy now before it gets altered by improved understanding of the source.  So there you go.

Remember This? Or Am I Losing It?

I seem to have constructed a memory from whole cloth.  The internet is not backing me up on this, so it has to have been my imagination.  But it’s so specific.  This isn’t something like KinderTrauma, where it’s an old TV show I dimly remember being exposed to at the age of five.  This is something that should show up on atheist sites, and their opposition.  Something in our domain.

I remembered creationists editing Archaeopteryx into an edition of the bible.  Like there was a list of birds, there was one with an uncertain modern translation, and they just slipped it in there next to hoopoes and thrushes or something.  I even remember having seen one of these bibles, dimly.  But I can’t find jack shit about this on the internet.

Am I losing it?  Discuss my inadequacies in the comments.

Organized Atheism Also at Fault

I’m pretty quick to point out that terves very much share blame for the recent losses on women’s rights.  Transphobia was one of the levers that helped buoy fascists and autocrats in elections across the globe recently.  But this isn’t a terf blog network, it’s an atheist one.  That’s our beat.  So to that end, let me just reiterate this point I’ve made before.

Organized atheism should always have been a force for progressivism, against the barbarity of religious belief.  But nope.  The idea of listening to even the mildest of feminist critique caused all our talking heads to leap headlong into bed with fascists, to promote the movements that ultimately led to Trump’s election and the current slate in the supreme court.  DickDawk can whine all he wants that he’s liberal, that we should believe that counts for fuckin’ anything, while he engages in piteous dickriding transphobia and platforms the hero of incel mass shooters everywhere.

There is a straight line from elevatorgate to gamergate to altright white supremacy to cheeto hitler to the end of Roe v Wade.  Terfs did their part, but we were in the game of ruining civilization as we know it when those bitches were barely getting started.  We had a lot of friends along the way in building this theocracy, but we should never lose sight of our part in subverting our own ostensible ends.  Like terfs – they should never be allowed to forget they helped set feminism back eighty years, and we should never be allowed to forget we set atheism back as well.

My own part was small.  I let a subtle brew of ableism and islamophobia drive me to participate in boosting new atheism, participating in the comments and the discourse, not doing enough to change the rotten core of the movement or start a better one.  I’ll own that.  I wonder if the narcissistic thunk leaders of our defunct movement will ever process the same, ever feel that as they fade from the earth.  I doubt it.