They need help

Snopes.com is necessary, but not sufficient.

That's one of the things I started out wanting to say. Then I got a bit distracted as that thought was reinforced by the dismaying spectacle of Sarah Palin's unconditional admirers — their admiration only increasing with every Katie Couric interview and every repeated, documented lie — and that initial thought led to others and those led to others, and puzzlement led to exasperation and then to pity and then to resolve and I never quite came right out and said exactly what it was that I had initially wanted to say as precisely as I'd wanted to.

And that again was this: Snopes.com is necessary, but not sufficient.

If you're not familiar with it, Snopes is an indispensable resource, one of those Internet tools that it now seems impossible to imagine living without. They deal with rumors, urban myths, legends and idle gossip, addressing every case with an open mind and subjecting it to a simple test: Is this true? What are the facts?

Facts matter. But facts are, in themselves, rarely persuasive.

The last time I had occasion to consult Snopes involved an acquaintance who is, in many ways, a likable enough person. But he also seems to hear and absorb a lot of information that ain't necessarily so.

This time it had to do with Target, the nationwide discount retail chain. He refuses to shop at Target because they hate veterans.
I hadn't heard that. It seemed implausible, since hating on veterans would be just about the most self-destructive PR strategy one could imagine for a retail chain. Plus I know a lot of veterans and I've never heard about this from any of them. Those I know best, in fact, shop at Target all the time.

But OK, I said, let's look it up. And we went to Snopes and there it was. Snopes explains that this rumor is not true. They provide the background of the rumor and trace its history back to a single e-mail from a single person. They cite that person and his retraction and apology. They cite official statements from Target and evidence of the company's support for veterans' causes. They cite veteran's groups gratefully attesting to that support. This is all sourced and linked back to sources and in general a devastatingly thorough and altogether Snopes-like job of debunking and rebutting the rumor.

The result of this, of course, is that the acquaintance still does not shop at Target because he still chooses to believe that they hate veterans, and now he no longer believes anything from Snopes.com because, he says, this proves they can't be trusted.

This might have gone another way. Had this guy merely been misinformed, the Snopes data might have been persuasive. If the root of his problem were only a matter of bad information, good information might have resolved that problem and he could have walked away knowing something true instead of having to manufacture new falsehoods to reinforce the old ones.
But misinformation was not the root or the source of his problem, so supplying him with the correct information was not, in itself, sufficient to help him.

And that really is my goal here — to figure out some way to help this guy and others like him. To figure out some way to help these poor bastards and others like them.

They need help. They need, frankly, liberation.

The weird rumor about Target or the even weirder rumor about P&G are somewhat trivial examples of this, but basing your life on things that aren't true, that aren't real, is a kind of bondage. In simpler, more pragmatic terms: Unreality doesn't work. It is unsustainable. It is a recipe for unhappiness.

The reason I've been writing about/obsessing over things like the P&G rumor or the usefulness of Snopes is that I'm trying to figure out how to liberate the captives of unreality. (I doubt they'd appreciate my stating it that way, but there it is.)

Part of that task, obviously, is to provide them with a dose of reality — to supply good information that might replace the bad, to offer them facts as a better option than lies. That's necessary, but not sufficient. That throws open the gates, but can't convince them to walk out into the world. Providing information offers the opportunity to choose reality, but it cannot compel or persuade them to take that opportunity or to make that choice.

That's what we're dealing with here: choices. My Target-boycotting acquaintance is making the choice to believe what he prefers to believe, irrespective of whatever the facts might actually be. That's a lot of hard work on his part. It requires an ongoing and exponentially multiplying set of fabrications to maintain. It involves an ever-expanding web of things that he can't allow himself to think about. It has to be, on some level, exhausting.

Take a look at those videos linked above (via). These people have fabricated imaginary monsters that, at some level, they know aren't real and yet they've put those monsters in charge of their lives. They're driven by fear and hatred — fear and hatred of things they know don't really exist. They are, for whatever reason, choosing bondage to that fear and hatred and it's making them miserable. It's stunting their humanity. It's confining them. It's wearing them out.

They need help.

I'm sure help isn't something they'd welcome. And it's probably not something they'd want (although what they really might want is a more complex question). Whether or not it's something they deserve isn't for a wretch like me to decide.

But it's not about welcome or want or deserve. It's about what they need.
They need liberation. They need help. And we're going to have to figure out how to help them, soon, because many of the people in those videos seem to be on the threshhold of real violence and the kind of ugliness that will make it even harder for them ever to escape.

I heard an interview with Don Cheadle recently in which he said, "You can't play down to the cynics." That's an actor's advice, but he wasn't talking only about acting. Ours is a cynical time, and in such a time I realize that any expression of concern will sound to many as merely concern trolling. Attempts to diagnose will sound to many as mere attacks or accusations. But I'm not concern trolling here and I'm not attacking or accusing. I'm just trying to figure out what has gone wrong with these people and why, because allowing them to continue along the path they have chosen would seem, for lack of a better word, cruel.

Information — facts, reality, the rebuttal and debunking of lies — is one kind of help that the captives of unreality need. That information is necessary, but not sufficient, for those who have chosen their own captivity. What else is necessary, and what might be sufficient to help them choose not to make that choice, is something I want to continue exploring.

  • hf

    Me: Science advances in part because nobody has the power to lock up researchers for “being dicks” and challenging orthodoxy.
    New Scientist summary: We should *celebrate* the fact that he was burnt to death by the Church, who clearly made the correct decision in this case.
    I did think after posting that I should have written “official authority” rather than power to make sure it held true for America. “But Wilhelm Reich really was a dick!”

  • Bugmaster

    I have known (and presently know) people who believe that these concepts flow from each other, as in “I believe this thing to be true, therefore it is good, therefore it is right, therefore it is legal. Consequently, something a person believes to be bad is consequently wrong and should be illegal.

    Er, yeah, that is pretty scary. But, again, my hunch would be that these fundamentalists do indeed feel happier than us doubters, on the average. Certainty is such a sweet drug…

  • Tonio

    what if they’re right ?
    That was my point earlier. Either the statement about deserving suffering is correct or incorrect, and the repugnance or offensiveness of the statement is irrelevant. It may be reasonable to suspect the person of being unbalanced, but we have no basis for saying that the person is right or wrong.

  • http://jamoche.livejournal.com jamoche

    As it turns out, believing that someone else will burn in hell can make the believer much happier, on the average…
    I sincerely doubt that “on the average” is true. I even doubt that the people who think that certain types of people are going to hell have really thought about what that means. That the thought that they’re better than other people makes them happy I can believe, that there are a small number of people out there that do find joy in the idea of other people in hell I have no choice but to believe, since the existence of Fred Phelps is an undeniable fact. But he and his ilk are rare.
    The world really is not so scary as you think.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    “But Wilhelm Reich really was a dick!”
    I dunno, “more orgasms for everyone” is a heck of a political platform, though using our orgasms to shoot down invading UFOs is, er, a fascinating concept.

  • Tonio

    But he and his ilk are rare…The world really is not so scary as you think.
    True, but they also tend to be the most vocal, and even individually they can be terrifying. (I have a theory that the most extreme members of any group or movement tend to be the most vocal members, that it’s a personality type that transcends belief or ideology.)

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    But he and his ilk are rare…The world really is not so scary as you think.
    True, but they also tend to be the most vocal, and even individually they can be terrifying.

    The best way to fight Fred Phelps, at least, is to pay absolutely no attention to anything he says. He’s doing it for the attention: look at the way he’s calculated his program to distress liberals (attacking gays) and conservatives (attacking soldiers) both. He just enjoys provoking people. It’s pathetic, really; very hard on his family, but basically just a small man talking big because he loves feeling angry and getting into fights. So stuff him. He’s just a prat.
    In keeping with which principle, that’s all I’m going to say about him.

  • Tonio

    He just enjoys provoking people…just a small man talking big because he loves feeling angry and getting into fights. So stuff him. He’s just a prat.
    It’s those qualities combined with his beliefs that make him terrifying. In general, people who like getting into fights and provoking others are scary.

  • Izzy

    Okay, bluntness:
    If I passed judgment on her hair, even in a humorous context to someone else, I would feel like I was putting myself in a one-up position over her.
    Well, I am–insofar as “not a person who has a mullet” is a one-up position–and I don’t really care so much, because:
    a) Ideally, she’s not hearing it.
    b) If she does hear it, she can ignore it. Or she can profit by it.
    c) So what? I’m not running over anyone’s dog with this, so…whatever, it’s fun.
    And also d) putting myself in a position to judge other people, as long as that judgment isn’t interfering with their lives doesn’t bug me or strike me as a wrong thing to do. I mean, yes, opinions on hairstyles and religion and appropriate public behavior differ, subjective beauty, blah blah blah, but at the end of the day…she’s got a mullet, he’s a Scientologist, they’re going “WOOO CELTICS!” really loudly, like *total morons*, and I don’t feel much like pretending to myself that it’s all okay as long as they’re happy with themselves.
    I would be tempted to automatically assume they are right. Their criticism would feel like it was coming from a parent.
    Yeah…see, here’s where I get kinda bitchy: I like you, dude, but you have Issues, possibly therapy-worthy ones, with criticism and judgment. I don’t have these issues–I have other issues, my own, but that’s not the point–and neither do most people, and I don’t spend my life walking on eggshells for the benefit of people who *do* have those issues.
    Life’s short, fun’s fun, and as long as I’m not getting in anyone’s face about it, I sleep pretty damn well at night.

  • Cowboy Diva

    Bugmaster,
    If someone wants me to suffer for eternity for the sake of their salvation, I am not in a position to tell them otherwise. Snopes.com will not be at all helpful in this type of situation.
    I can keep my distance, however, in case they decide to send me to hell NOW! TODAY! and then poke fun at them from that distance if I so desire.
    I can also live my life in such a way that a third person, looking at both me (the one being condemned to eternal suffering) and the condemner, and deciding the condemner is in fact a few french fries short of a happy meal(TM).
    and for the record, certainty is BORING.

  • hapax

    Again, why ? And what if the person telling you this appears to be uniquely happy, self-assured, and generally well-adjusted ? Earlier on, you said that you’d strive to emulate the beliefs of such people — but why not this one?
    Er, no. I said that I’d examine the beliefs of such people and see if they could be incorporated into my already existing world view. Believing that ANYONE deserves to suffer for eternity, definitely doesn’t. And walking up to strangers to announce that belief to their faces is so outside the norm of acceptable behavior in this society, that the default assumption is “Dude, you’re nuts.”
    In limited systems (such as mathematics) there are of course true or false answers. I don’t believe that in unlimited systems (such as human behavior, or possibly the physical universe — I’m ambivalent on this one), there is such thing as true or false, let alone right or wrong. There is not quite true, and even less true, and hardly true at all, and so forth. And with right and wrong — well, we keep trying to approach the absolutte limit of rectitude, with varying degrees of success, but we never quite reach it, but we never fall utterly off the scale, either.
    Go back to the example I gave of purchasing books for the library. There is no such thing as an absolutely worthless book (that’s NOT a dare for people to start suggesting counter-examples, btw) — if nothing else, there it has value to the author, there is a certain aesthetic pleasure in its book-ness, and so forth. Nor is there truly such a thing as an “essential purchase for every library” (although some books come close), no matter what some reviewers will try and tell you. But my library only has funds to purchase so many, and space to store so many of those. Selection has to be made; criteria and standards have to be established; and judgments have to be imposed. That doesn’t mean my selections are correct and absolute, and couldn’t be done differently, and probably could be done better. It just means that choices have to be made, and its my responsibility to make them — and to live with them.
    So people who believe that others should burn in hell for eternity — well, by my lights (and remember, this is a personal judgment about “should I weave this strand into my mental tapestry” not an externalized judgment “nobody should be allowed to say such things”) there is some degree of rightness to that belief, in that yeah, “People should be held accountable for their choices.” But since that principle is far outranked by, say, “Torture is wrong”, it excludes the hell-burning hypothesis.
    Now, obviously, most decisions I make in life involve the physical universe (should I drive this car over a cliff to avoid the traffic jam on the way home? No, gravity is a cruel mistress) and most, frankly, are inconsequential (picante or salsa?) There is no good reason not to apply mostly physical, empirical criteria to those judgments. I don’t think we disagree there.
    But there are plenty of other decisions in life that cannot be determined on that basis, no matter how much data we collect, even that do not necessarily appear “religious” at first glance, (e.g., which is the priority goal, safely conserving the present situation, or risking disaster for new possibilities?) that everyone has to take a leap of faith sometime.

  • Tonio

    And also d) putting myself in a position to judge other people, as long as that judgment isn’t interfering with their lives doesn’t bug me or strike me as a wrong thing to do.
    In the practical sense, of course the judgment isn’t interfering with their lives. In the principle sense, all judgment is to some degree a reflection of a person’s worth. Not necessarily in the eyes of the judge, but more in a pseudo-transcendental sense. If there is nothing wrong with the person, then why is the person being judged?
    I don’t spend my life walking on eggshells for the benefit of people who *do* have those issues.
    I don’t expect people to do that. At the same time, they shouldn’t expect me to walk on eggshells around them. I’ve even been told that I don’t have the right to feel angry or offended at some people.

  • http://jamoche.livejournal.com jamoche

    If there is nothing wrong with the person, then why is the person being judged?
    Because there’s something wrong with the person doing the judgement.

  • Izzy

    Well, there *is* something wrong with the person, often, in my opinion. If I have a mullet, that’s something wrong with me: easily fixed, but there you are. If I’m Tom Cruise, what’s wrong with me is perhaps not as easily fixed, because I’d have to stop being an asshat, and…well, Tom Cruise. But “wrong” covers a lot of stuff, and a lot of it isn’t “you suck as a person” and most of the stuff that *is* doesn’t merit or require intervention, other than perhaps warning friends not to room with you or whatever.
    In general, though, yeah, you can get all philosophy major about what constitutes interference, but it’s pretty easy to draw the line: if you can ignore something without changing your daily routine, it’s probably not interference. Don’t like what this blog says about LaJenkins? Nobody’s making you read it. If I’m talking *quietly* to my friend and the subject of your mullet comes up, well, nobody’s forcing you to listen.
    At the same time, they shouldn’t expect me to walk on eggshells around them.
    Well, no. I don’t think anyone does, as such.
    I’ve even been told that I don’t have the right to feel angry or offended at some people.
    You’ve got the right to feel whatever you want. When you express that, people have a right to react to it, though.
    Without knowing the facts of the case, I can’t say whether I’d have been all “yeah, those people sucked” or “get over yourself”–I mean, you seem relatively reasonable, so I’m guessing the former–but offense or anger isn’t always a valid reaction. I’ve had people be offended because the cashier wasn’t perky enough when they were buying soda, for example, or because people had the nerve to kiss in front of a third party when said third party was single, or whatever, and…no, I’m not going to be terribly supportive there, because those people need to pull out the stick.
    It’s a balance: on the one hand, there’s unacceptable behavior and offensive attitudes, and on the other, we live with other people, they’re not always going to have the same standards we do, blah blah. And whether anger/offense is okay depends on where what you’re offended at falls on that spectrum, and how you express it.

  • Tonio

    But “wrong” covers a lot of stuff, and a lot of it isn’t “you suck as a person” and most of the stuff that *is* doesn’t merit or require intervention
    Valid point. I suppose it’s hard for me to hear constant criticism without suspecting that either a) something is indeed wrong with me or b) people are impossible to please. The latter to me feels like an evasion of responsibility on my part.
    If I’m talking *quietly* to my friend and the subject of your mullet comes up, well, nobody’s forcing you to listen.
    I’m questioning the rightness of ridiculing or slamming others behind their back.
    Without knowing the facts of the case, I can’t say whether I’d have been all “yeah, those people sucked” or “get over yourself”–I mean, you seem relatively reasonable, so I’m guessing the former–but offense or anger isn’t always a valid reaction.
    Thanks. Without going into details, I got angry at my mother for grossly violating my wife’s emotional and physical boundaries, and my father told me that I shouldn’t get angry at my mother simply because I’m her son.

  • http://www.processedworld.com Thomas Daulton

    This topic crosses religious, political, and polite-social-behavior boundaries, but the examples most frequently cited tend to be political. If I may, I’ll comment on the political and social while avoiding the religious.
    When I run across a political or social belief which persists in the face of well-documented facts, I myself tend to label it an “identity issue”. In my opinion/analysis, a person chooses to believe things in the face of facts because acknowledging contrary facts would force that person to rewrite their identity, which I suspect is among the most difficult things a person can do. (At this point I beg your indulgence to, at least temporarily, avoid discussions of how many people are sincerely “Born Again” in religion. Let’s talk politics, society and rumors for a minute.)
    I deal with Global Warming / Climate Change Deniers frequently, and it seems they are a perfect example of what another commenter referred to as “fractal wrongness”. If you confront them with very solid numerical evidence that their belief is incorrect, they move Heaven and Earth in order to show that X numerical detail must obviously be a part of the worldwide conspiracy to suppress the truth. All so that their core worldview doesn’t have to move.
    I’m engaging in some speculation here, but it always seems to me like the root of their denial is because they believe that if they accept the counter-evidence, then they must necessarily join a group of people, or a philosophy, whom they personally despise. To continue my example, most Global Warming Deniers, when not re-arranging facts, defend their position by emphasizing the fundamental goodness and rightness of Capitalist Industry. This suggests to me that they don’t want to accept numerical atmospheric facts because they associate those facts with [a group they think of as] dirty grubby hippy anti-Capitalist flower children who want to destroy America’s economy. “That’s not my identity,” the denier says to himself, “I like my identity so I will do pretty much anything, go to any length, in order to avoid having something in common with the people I don’t want to join.”
    Of course the reality is, that the facts don’t depend on a political point of view; if pollution is accumulating in the atmosphere from manmade sources, then that’s a fact we humans need to act on, regardless of Capitalism or patriotism.
    George Lakoff enjoyed some success and some ridicule, and at times seemed to lack positive answers that were as persuasive as his criticism of Republicans. But I really think he was onto something with his concept of “frames”. Basically he said, human brains are not hardwired to accept and integrate facts like a computer is. People see _EVERYTHING_ in terms of a “frame story” which presents a moral or lesson which that person happens to appreciate. If a fact arises which contradicts the overarching frame, then the fact is discarded and the frame is kept. This is part of what I mean by “identity issue”.
    But even though it’s tough to consciously change one’s identity, I don’t give up hope. People change their identity, unconsciously, with the passing of years, all the time. I am convinced that the solution to this problem of denial of reality, is to live by example and show the deniers a better reality. Then when confronted with… not words, not numbers or facts, but actual life and living, and it turns out not to be as horrible as they imagined, they will change their minds (their “frame”). Maybe not convert into supporters, but at least stop the facetious and spurious denial and merely accept the change as a fact of life.
    To continue with my example, if for example the U.S. government really did launch a massive Apollo-Project type crusade for renewable energy, and it was successful — it generated jobs and helped rescue the economy as well as putting America back in the lead technologically… [as I think it will]… the vast majority of deniers would simply shut up about international conspiracies of climatologists and the Little Ice Age, and merely accept that it was a reasonably good idea in the first place. Many would edit their memories and claim that they were for it all along, they merely opposed the bungling policies of their political opponents.
    [This is why I get incensed when the so-called "opposition party" in Washington simply mimics the other party's policies and tries to soften their rough edges. No, they should be trying to implement something radically different, and see whether it succeeds. But that's a whole 'nuther debate.]
    If this, [the renewable energy Apollo program] was really given a good try and was not successful, then _I’m_ the one who would have to change my frame… Of course that’s tough, but I would at minimum be required to act on the reality that X methods didn’t work.

  • Izzy

    Valid point. I suppose it’s hard for me to hear constant criticism without suspecting that either a) something is indeed wrong with me or b) people are impossible to please. The latter to me feels like an evasion of responsibility on my part.
    Well, hearing constant criticism is a whole different situation, because: “hearing.” And: “constant.” Someone making the occasional comment that gets back to me…depends on who the someone is and whether they can fire me or I want to sleep with them or what, but if it’s a neutral stranger, it doesn’t really ruin my day. Having people constantly be bugging me to my face about how my work habits suck and I need to re-think my skirt choices and what the hell am I doing with my current boyfriend…well, I’d want to punch them, first of all, but it would probably make me wonder about myself a bit too.
    I’m questioning the rightness of ridiculing or slamming others behind their back.
    I know, but…asked and answered, as they say on Law and Order . I mean, you asked why I do this, and I answered–it’s fun and, as long as I take reasonable precautions to keep it out of people’s face, it’s not interfering with most people’s lives for any reasonable definition of “interfering”–so I’m not sure what you want me to say here. I mean, yes, you’re questioning it, and the answer to that question is: see my last five posts on the topic, basically. You don’t have to agree, but if there’s a question that said last five posts have failed to answer, I’m missing it.
    Talking about a *friend* behind their back is probably a bad thing in most situations–if you want Bob to take out the trash or show up on time or whatever, tell him, because you’re not doing anyone any favors by keeping that quiet–but if it’s someone who isn’t a friend and you’re not talking to a mutual acquaintance, I’m not seeing a problem that, again, I haven’t covered before.
    Also, your father sounds like a dick, and the “you can’t get angry at your parents” argument is pure distilled bullshit, for what that’s worth. Sorry you had to go through that.

  • Drake Pope

    While you have a valid point, the issue is not what qualifies as persecution, or whether Galileo’s treatment compares with Bruno’s. The issue was the Church’s hostility to freedom of thought and the free exchange of ideas. The Church had no moral right to attempt to silence either Galileo or Bruno. The only motive I can imagine for the Church is that it regarded those men’s ideas as threats to its own power. Was that the case?
    I still don’t get how that is not persecution. “Attempt[ing] to silence [...] ideas as threats to [your] own power” can literally be the definition of persecution. Yeah, house arrest is a lot better than immolation, but that doesn’t mean that what they did to Galileo was somehow “less than” persecution.
    [This is why I get incensed when the so-called "opposition party" in Washington simply mimics the other party's policies and tries to soften their rough edges. No, they should be trying to implement something radically different, and see whether it succeeds. But that's a whole 'nuther debate.]
    Well, it’s not like they have much of a choice.
    It’s those qualities combined with his beliefs that make him terrifying. In general, people who like getting into fights and provoking others are scary.
    The good news is that he probably won’t try to kill you, and that most people, even other fundamentalists, think that he’s an asshat.
    Well, I am–insofar as “not a person who has a mullet” is a one-up position–and I don’t really care so much, because:
    To be fair, most people without mullets have a distinct attractiveness advantage over most (not all, but most) people with mullets.

  • http://mabus101.livejournal.com Mabus

    jamoche: I sincerely doubt that “on the average” is true. I even doubt that the people who think that certain types of people are going to hell have really thought about what that means. That the thought that they’re better than other people makes them happy I can believe, that there are a small number of people out there that do find joy in the idea of other people in hell I have no choice but to believe, since the existence of Fred Phelps is an undeniable fact. But he and his ilk are rare.
    I must say I know of no one in my personal circles who enjoys the thought that there are people going to hell (except perhaps in an abstract sense: “how very nice it will be not to have any murderers/thieves/what-have-you to worry about in heaven”). I’m sure there are some such people, and it may be that I know some without realizing they are happy about it.
    Because of my church’s complicated relations with other churches, there are an unusually large number of members who believe they have relatives and loved ones who are going to be damned, and my experience is that we are all quite distressed about the matter. In at least some cases, the issue has been raised so many times over the course of a lifetime that people have effectively given up, for lack of any idea what else to do or say, but still there is certainly no joy about the matter. (My grandparents have been in this situation as long as I’ve been alive.) Old books and journals are filled with questions such as “What about my parents, who didn’t know what I know now? Am I being disloyal to them? Will they get off lightly?”
    Unfortunately, the increasing cultural distaste for proselytization has made matters worse and worse, as relatives are more and more likely to respond with “Get out of my face and leave me alone” instead of “That’s an interesting point, but I think….” No one really knows what to do any more, and our growth rate has slowed to a crawl (still climbing slightly in numerical terms, but shrinking rapidly as percent of the population).

  • Cowboy Diva

    Mabus, in your church, who decides who will be damned? How do you know if a person is in fact, damned?
    I would think that the parables of the lost sheep and coin, and prodigal son allow us to hope for that which we cannot accomplish and leave the rest to God, yes? So then, it is not for us to know or decide (or for that matter, to care as it does not concern us directly) who is damned and who is not.
    How does this jibe with your church’s theology?

  • http://mabus101.livejournal.com Mabus

    Cowboy Diva, strictly speaking, of course, no human decides who will be damned–which is, as you say, none of our business. Nonetheless there are a number of passages in Scripture regarding “how to avoid being damned” and “what kinds of things can result in damnation”. It seems far from unreasonable to conclude that people who do not follow the instructions in these passages are, at the very best, pushing their luck. (I won’t get into a discussion regarding other religions, atheism, and so forth where this topic is concerned, as it’s something few of us have ever had much success with. The vast majority of converts to the Churches of Christ came from other churches–people who take the Bible more or less for granted but disagreed with us on its interpretation.)
    There are periodic discussions over the very issue you raised, but generally speaking the conclusion has been, “God has given his word that he will follow such-and-such rules regarding who is to be saved. This says nothing about any particular person as such, but we can surely expect that God will not break his promises.”

  • Cowboy Diva

    so, then, your church knows when a person is damned based on its interpretation of the Bible?
    It is indeed good to expect God will not break promises, as your church understands those promises.
    It rather reminds me of Bugmaster’s closing sentence at 3:15 today.

  • http://mabus101.livejournal.com Mabus

    You mean this?
    Er, yeah, that is pretty scary. But, again, my hunch would be that these fundamentalists do indeed feel happier than us doubters, on the average. Certainty is such a sweet drug…
    I do know some people in my church who are happy that they can be certain–quite a few, in fact. And some of them, I suspect, are more certain than is really warranted.
    But even so, isn’t that the difference between having a belief–any belief, on any subject–and not having one, or having a different one? If I really am not convinced that the thing I believe is true, in what sense can it be said that I believe it?
    Nor is happiness in the knowledge of a fact necessarily the same as happiness in that fact’s consequences. I’m glad to know about global warming, as it means we have at least some small chance of ameliorating the results; I’m not glad at all about what global warming will do to our civilization. I can, likewise, be glad that I have the opportunity to go to heaven without being happy that not everyone will be there.

  • hapax

    my experience is that we are all quite distressed about the matter.
    Mabus, you didn’t ask for my opinion, so I shan’t offer it to you.
    On the other hand, I hope you will not be distressed if I merely remark offhand to the electronic ether that I have faith that, while God’s faithfulness and justice are infinite, so are God’s compassion and mercy; and that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
    Beyond that, I do not dare presume to speculate.

  • http://mabus101.livejournal.com Mabus

    How very kind of you, hapax.
    Though, frankly, I would not be remotely offended if you offered your opinion. What other good are they, than to be offered and discussed?
    (Suffice it to say I have little in common with the “don’t talk about it, it’s arrogant” crowd. What if scientists thought that way?)

  • Tonio

    it’s fun and, as long as I take reasonable precautions to keep it out of people’s face, it’s not interfering with most people’s lives for any reasonable definition of “interfering”
    It doesn’t matter whether it interferes or not – it’s still wrong in principle to have a laugh at someone else’s expense. People aren’t clowns for our amusement. I don’t see how one can laugh at someone else’s expense and still respect that person or value that person.
    Also, I’m uncomfortable with the “keep it out of people’s faces” argument, because that almost sounds like an argument for deeming actions as not wrong as long as no one finds out about them. I doubt that this is your intention.
    I still don’t get how that is not persecution.
    I wasn’t taking a position on whether it qualified as persecution.
    The good news is that he probably won’t try to kill you, and that most people, even other fundamentalists, think that he’s an asshat.
    By scary, I don’t mean that I consciously think he would try to kill me or kill someone else. I mean that his belligerence has all the earmarks of imminent danger. Like someone suddenly leaning in your face for a second and you are startled by the move.

  • http://jamoche.livejournal.com jamoche

    my experience is that we are all quite distressed about the matter.
    I meant to put in something about how most people who do think that some people are going to hell actually feel rather bad about it, if for no other reason than because compassion is part of being human.

  • Tonio

    In at least some cases, the issue has been raised so many times over the course of a lifetime that people have effectively given up, for lack of any idea what else to do or say, but still there is certainly no joy about the matter.
    Does their compassion lead them to question the morality of the damnation concept? If the decision whether or not to damn others was theirs to make, what would they choose? Hapax had an excellent point earlier about the wrongness of torture having primacy over the principle of accountability – would those believers see it that way? I see this as also applying to the morality of the American government practicing torture.

  • Caravelle

    Er, yeah, that is pretty scary. But, again, my hunch would be that these fundamentalists do indeed feel happier than us doubters, on the average. Certainty is such a sweet drug…
    I do know some people in my church who are happy that they can be certain–quite a few, in fact. And some of them, I suspect, are more certain than is really warranted.
    But even so, isn’t that the difference between having a belief–any belief, on any subject–and not having one, or having a different one? If I really am not convinced that the thing I believe is true, in what sense can it be said that I believe it?

    Certainty is a continuum, so it depends at what point you define “belief” and a what point you define “convinced”. 70% and 95% sound good for me, and with that definition it’s possible to believe something while not being completely convinced…

  • Izzy

    It doesn’t matter whether it interferes or not – it’s still wrong in principle to have a laugh at someone else’s expense. People aren’t clowns for our amusement.
    Enh, sure they are–when they *make* themselves clowns. I’m not laughing at anyone for anything they can’t help–though I have a definition of “can’t help” which doesn’t include “not having learned basic social skills by twenty” and similar–and I’m pretty careful about that. Joey’s love affair with spray-on bronzer is of his own making, and he can discontinue it any time he wants, so.
    I don’t see how one can laugh at someone else’s expense and still respect that person or value that person.
    Well, I don’t, really. I mean, I respect them insofar as they’re human and they still deserve food and clothing and not being punched in the face and so forth, but generally, as I said, these aren’t my friends or anything. I wish them the best in life–including a different hairstyle–but I don’t know or like them particularly well.
    Also, I’m uncomfortable with the “keep it out of people’s faces” argument, because that almost sounds like an argument for deeming actions as not wrong as long as no one finds out about them. I doubt that this is your intention.
    Depends on the action. Some actions are only wrong *when* they interfere in someone else’s life, or you force someone else to witness them. To be crude, because I just got up: there’s nothing inherently wrong with jerking off, but there *is* something wrong with doing it on the cross-town bus.
    Seriously? You don’t have to approve. It’s no skin off my nose. But you asked me to explain, I did, and I think we’re at the point where I’ve explained, here: you’re not really unclear on anything except how I can be so mean, or whatever. We disagree on a fundamental principle, so…there we are.

  • Cowboy Diva

    Mabus, I think maybe a better question is what a person does with that in which they believe. If JaneAnon believes that the way she follows to keep her from suffering for eternity is the only one, and everyone who disagrees with her is going to hell, it may be very easy for her to a) inadvertently hurt people in her effort to get them to agree with her OR b) advertently (not a word, but should be) hurt people in her effort to ignore them to further follow the Right Way by breaking off all contact with the Disagreer.
    Can you see this happening? If so, how does it affect JaneAnon’s relationships, and her ability to help “the least of these?”
    What did you think of hapax’s technique of evangelism not by outright oral profession of faith but as manifested by action (I am NOT talking salvation but rather attitudes/behavior that change as part of … consecration), in that the example of your life reflects the christianity you believe?
    Thanks for your patience with these questions.
    ps. from the other thread, I do not know enough about the DoC to comment on their growth, but your description seemed to include a note of betrayal of trust; is that right?

  • Tonio

    I’m not laughing at anyone for anything they can’t help–though I have a definition of “can’t help” which doesn’t include “not having learned basic social skills by twenty” and similar–and I’m pretty careful about that.
    While that’s a valid distinction to make, I doubt that it really applies outside your own head. Any negative feedback I get from people, I bring on myself – I’m ultimately responsible. That’s true whether or not it’s something I can help, and it’s true whether or not the people intended to give negative feedback.
    I respect them insofar as they’re human and they still deserve food and clothing and not being punched in the face and so forth…
    I cannot assume that is the case for me – I suspect I deserve those things when I live up to a certain standard or when I don’t make mistakes.
    Some actions are only wrong *when* they interfere in someone else’s life, or you force someone else to witness them.
    No argument there.
    But you asked me to explain, I did, and I think we’re at the point where I’ve explained, here: you’re not really unclear on anything except how I can be so mean, or whatever.
    No, I’m simply trying to understand why you don’t seem to be using the standard of “would I want that said about me.”

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    Tonio, what would you say to the suggestion that private snark about someone else’s poor choices or misfortune is a useful safety valve for the psyche, one which helps exorcise such thoughts, helping the thinker resist the urge to air them not-so-privately in a manner which will cause grief for all involved?

  • Amaryllis

    Since I don’t seem to have time these days to do anything more than speed-read and quote (I haven’t even begun to follow the economics arguments over on the other thread), here’s one for Izzy:

    “Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed at!” cried Elizabeth. “That is an uncommon advantage, and uncommon I hope it will continue, for it would be a great loss to me to have many such acquaintance. I dearly love a laugh.”
    “Miss Bingley,” said he, “has given me credit for more than can be. The wisest and the best of men, nay, the wisest and best of their actions, may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke.”
    “Certainly,” replied Elizabeth — “there are such people, but I hope I am not one of them. I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.”

    Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

  • Tonio

    helping the thinker resist the urge to air them not-so-privately in a manner which will cause grief for all involved?
    Why would the person have that urge in the first place? I can understand that urge if the poor choices adversely affected other people. With misfortune, the only motive that would make sense to me is if the person was really thinking, “Whew, I’m glad that didn’t happen to me.”

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    Why would the person have that urge in the first place?

    You’ve never had an antisocial urge in your life? Really?
    Wow.

  • Tonio

    You’ve never had an antisocial urge in your life? Really?
    What do you mean by antisocial? I’ve been called that because I’m uncomfortable around people, particularly strangers, and I tend to be reclusive.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    From Wiktionary:
    antisocial: 1. Unwilling or unable to associate normally with other people – 2. antagonistic, hostile, or unfriendly toward others; menacing – 3. Opposed to social order or the principles of society.
    Most people with whom I’ve discussed the matter have the occasional antisocial impulse. Often, the impulse is completely irrational or disproportionate to the situation at hand.
    The impulses themselves seem to originate from a part of the psyche not under conscious control; however, they often can be successfully countered with humor, some consideration of perspective, or sometimes chocolate.
    I’ve encountered many people who attain varying success in dealing with antisocial thoughts, but I’ve never met someone who claimed never to have them.

  • Izzy

    Tonio: No, I’m simply trying to understand why you don’t seem to be using the standard of “would I want that said about me.”
    Because…it’s not one I believe in.
    There’s a point at which there’s really nothing else to say here.
    I explained earlier up: unless what they’re saying is true and something I care about, or they’re saying it in such a way that it’s influencing my life (spreading rumors that I huff white-out on company time would be an issue, because it could get me fired, for instance), it doesn’t bug me. If it’s true and something I care about, then I need to fix it, and I probably will once it comes to my attention.
    So “Would I want this said about me?” isn’t really relevant to what I do. I mean, no, I wouldn’t want people to say I had a bad fake tan or a personal-space-invading way of talking…but mostly in the sense that I wouldn’t want to *have* those things. If I did, it would suck, but the problem would be having a bad fake tan, *not* what anyone might or might not say about it.
    While that’s a valid distinction to make, I doubt that it really applies outside your own head. Any negative feedback I get from people, I bring on myself – I’m ultimately responsible. That’s true whether or not it’s something I can help, and it’s true whether or not the people intended to give negative feedback.
    I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to say here.
    There are things that you choose, as an intelligent adult: hairstyle, religion*, a certain level of social skills, whether to flip out on an author because your favorite characters didn’t hook up, etc. And there are those that you don’t: race, sex, body type, physical disabilities, economic level, and so forth. Making fun of the second sort is a horrible thing to do, because no, you’re *not* responsible for being blind (masturbation jokes aside) or homeless (shut up, Republicans) or whatever. The first, on the other hand, is fair game.
    I cannot assume that is the case for me – I suspect I deserve those things when I live up to a certain standard or when I don’t make mistakes.
    See, again, this is a thing where you’re seeing the world from a perspective most people don’t. I mean, I believe (in principle, in a world where we could know for absolutely certain what people were guilty of, I do not want to start this debate) in the death penalty, so if the standard is “you don’t strangle nurses,” then…yes, sort of. But that’s a pretty low standard, right there. And if you’re not going around killing or raping? Yes, you deserve food and clothing.
    Amaryllis: Yes, exactly. Plus, love for Austen.
    *I don’t make fun of most religions not because you don’t choose them but because there’s really nothing to make fun of: it’s like making fun of someone for wearing jeans. You just don’t have a point. On the other hand, I say “most religions” for a reason, because, y’know, Scientology.

  • http://www.gothhouse.org McJulie

    but it always seems to me like the root of their denial is because they believe that if they accept the counter-evidence, then they must necessarily join a group of people, or a philosophy, whom they personally despise
    That’s pretty much the way I see it too — belief as an issue of identity and narrative. When I try to persuade people of something I don’t generally offer a lot of factoids, since I’m likely to get those wrong anyway, but I do like to offer counter-narratives.
    Sometimes it works. Sometimes people are already reaching out for a new narrative — a new role to cast themselves in.

  • Tonio

    If it’s true and something I care about, then I need to fix it, and I probably will once it comes to my attention.
    If they’re talking about one’s personality or one’s worth, then one has no basis for saying that the others are wrong.
    the problem would be having a bad fake tan, *not* what anyone might or might not say about it.
    I’m suggesting that the bad fake tan would be a problem because other people think badly of it, or in some cases think badly about you because of it.
    I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to say here.
    I’m saying that I’m responsible for the things I don’t chose because those things are being ridiculed and criticized. It doesn’t matter that doing so is horrible, because that doesn’t stop the criticism or ridicule. Declaring that those aren’t my fault would feel to me like I was ducking blame or making excuses.
    Ultimately, all criticism and ridicule of me amounts to the same thing, no matter what the motive or reason – there’s a gap between me as a person and my actions on one hand, and what the world expects or requires from me on the other.

  • http://www.johnnysstew.com/cool/coolwet.html J

    “Unfortunately, the increasing cultural distaste for proselytization has made matters worse and worse, as relatives are more and more likely to respond with “Get out of my face and leave me alone” instead of “That’s an interesting point, but I think….” No one really knows what to do any more, and our growth rate has slowed to a crawl (still climbing slightly in numerical terms, but shrinking rapidly as percent of the population).”
    Yay! Yay yay yay! Each sentence in that paragraph makes me happier than the one before!

  • http://www.johnnysstew.com/cool/coolwet.html J

    “I don’t make fun of most religions not because you don’t choose them but because there’s really nothing to make fun of: it’s like making fun of someone for wearing jeans.”
    Wow. What a statement. I refute it thusly:
    ““He’s neither-nor,” said Ricky Thompson, a pipe fitter who works at a factory north of Mobile, while standing in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store just north of here. “He’s other. It’s in the Bible. Come as one. Don’t create other breeds.””

    “I would think of him as I would of another of mixed race,” said Glenn Reynolds, 74, a retired textile worker in Martinsdale, Va., and a former supervisor at a Goodyear plant. “God taught the children of Israel not to intermarry. You should be proud of what you are, and not intermarry.”
    Hey moderate religious people: However tangentially, you’re *connected* to these people. They worship the triune god too. They probably say the Nicene Creed. *You’re implicated*. Not a lot, but at least a little more than I am.

  • Cowboy Diva

    “there’s a gap between me as a person and my actions on one hand, and what the world expects or requires from me on the other.”
    Tonio, only if you let such a gap exist, or let yourself be concerned such a gap exists.
    It reminds of the ERoosevelt quote: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
    No one can tell me how to cut my hair, what to shave and when, what books to read or music to listen to, or who to vote for unless I want them to. Then, I get to decide whether to believe their opinions as valid in my life, for me.
    If someone laughs in my general direction, whatever. Glad I could bring some modicum of humor to the level of discourse. If someone throws a rock at me; that is different, because what if they miss and who’s going to pay the hospital bill? If someone takes the trouble to point out I am going the wrong way on a 1-way street, I am grateful for their interference.
    You can decide how you react to a given situation/image in your day, even if that reaction is “There but for universal grace and fortune go I.” and you know, sometimes just hearing someone mutter that can be incredibly funny.
    What the world requires? The world requires nothing. Society requires at a basic level you try not to hurt other people without warning them or under extreme provocation. Otherwise, your actions are your own; enjoy them to the fullest extent.

  • Izzy

    I clearly erred in not putting a pre-emptive “shut the fuck up, J,” in there, too.
    Hey, Reading Comprehension Man: I said “most” religions. For a reason.
    These people suck, I say so openly, and I am not sucky and bigoted by connection any more than I’m a wackjob because I’m a feminist and so is Andrea Dworkin, or any more than I’m a pretentious little wanker because I’m a Democrat and so are you.
    In other words: shut the fuck up, J.

  • http://bifrosts-edge.blogspot.com Jon

    @ tonio: I cannot assume that is the case for me – I suspect I deserve those things when I live up to a certain standard or when I don’t make mistakes.
    Here’s the thing: you can (and should) make that assumption about yourself. You’re a human being, therefore you have human rights.

  • Cowboy Diva

    By the way, J:
    The world is not 1 big Venn diagram where the number of circles I am in, and the number of circles you are in, and the number of circles Mr. I-really-don’t-know-how-to-read-the-Bible-for-comprehension is in may or may not touch or overlap for nice sweet set theory games on prejudice and power.
    The man in Virginia does not represent Virginians, retirees, men(!), supervisors or blue-collar workers; he represents himself.
    For you to say otherwise does not help the situation.

  • Cowboy Diva

    shorter Cowboy Diva to J:
    What Izzy said.

  • Izzy

    Also? Not all “moderate religious people” worship the Triune God, or say the Nicene Creed. Unless you mean to imply that being Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu doesn’t count as being religious, to name three.
    Please stop failing *quite* so hard.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Some sympathy for mullets, perhaps? I got stuck with one for a while, to my misery: I mistakenly let a student hairdresser practice on me, and he cropped off so much that it took months to grow back. In the in-between stage, I was indeed stuck with a mini-mullet, because he’d lopped it at the back much more than the front and I had to grow it out before the front was long enough to anything sensible with.
    When I recovered a reasonable amount, I took myself to the hairdresser, got the mullet at the back cut off and wound up with something like a short bob, and felt much better. But if someone had slagged me for a mullet before then, I would have felt pretty bad. Some people are victims of incompetent hairdressers, and I feel their pain.


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