I Am Like A God

Gina Colaianni posted a rebuttal to my Skepticon IV talk over mental illness on the CFI On-Campus blog.  I’m ignoring it.  I am snowed under by emails on the subject right now from people whose lives were changed by that talk and who are willing to help change the societal rubric with regards to mental illness, and I am too busy trying to manage the immense amount of positives from that talk to branch out.  Besides, plenty of other people have rushed to my defense.

But there is a comment on the post from a chap named Terry Gherin that made me do a little dance.

And the JTsuits rush to chastise you for contradicting their Lord and Master. It makes me laugh. People agreeing with what their “fearless leader” has to say, but disagreeing on just exactly how he said it. Reminds of something, I just can’t quite place it.

Truly, I have the influence of a god.

Through my charisma and powers of guile, I manage to make people ignore all the arguments against me (except where those people repeatedly list their reasons for agreeing with me) and rush in to defend me, not out of honest disagreement of course, but because of fealty to me, their atheistic chaplain (who repeatedly harps on the evils of blind obedience, but it’s probably reverse psychology…I’m that sneaky).  It can’t be that those criticizing the post in question feel she sniped at things I clearly never said and people are disagreeing in good faith because they think accuracy matters.  No, not in my defense.  It could only be unflinching loyalty to me by a bunch of people too gullible to see through my lies and shoddy arguments.  Truly, Satan himself envies my silver tongue.

Terry’s comment reads as a compliment to me, but as a diss to other atheists.  I’m flattered that Terry thinks so highly of me, but I’m miffed that Terry thinks so lowly of our peers.  Personally, I love this movement, I enjoy the company of others in it, and I respect many of the activist non-believers I come across.  This movement is all about giving reasons for why we believe the things we believe.  Seems to me that our movement is composed of men and women who are the opposite of the gullible sods Terry thinks they are.

Hell, Terry here doesn’t even have to give a reason to disagree – he just has to note that lots of people agree with me and ascribe a servile motivation to all of them and presto: argument resolved.  Now who can compete with that?

Next my little bees, we march on castle Pharyngula!  With my own unthinking, loyal army at my back, not even PZ can stop me!

Feel the evil.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula PZ Myers

    Your unthinking loyal army will meet my thinking, disloyal rabble and vanish without a trace.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      But PZ, surely your horde is also unthinking and blindly loyal. What other explanation can there be?

      • https://twitter.com/#!/Erulora Erulóra Maikalambe

        Haven’t you heard? We’re all just PZ’s sock puppets.

        • Brownian

          Haven’t you heard? We’re all just PZ’s sock puppets.

          [Sees above post.]

          Shit. Can ftb fix this sign-in thing once and for all? It’s mistakes like this that threaten to blow the cover off this whole stocking conspiracy.

          Who am I posting as now? Brownian? Damn, I’m totally out of character.

          I mean, “Sarcastic quip, double entendre, sarcastic quip.”

  • Rey Fox

    Well, she basically misses every point you made, so I wouldn’t recommend it that highly.

  • http://aratina.blogspot.com Aratina Cage

    When you do read Gina’s critique of your own blogging and activism (actually, it devolves into an accommodationist whine and a personal attack on you by the end), don’t pass over this little gem in the blurb about her:

    she can be found… blogging about her personal failures, successes, and shortcomings.

  • Alix

    What pissed me off was the comment,

    “For example, is it fair for JT (and others) to so readily criticize (and ridicule!) religious delusions when he’s asking us to empathize and try to understand his own?”

    That is the biggest, steamiest, most rancid piece of bullshit. Mental illness is something real, something serious, something you can’t fix on your own. Yes, your brain may be deluded, but it is something wrong with your brain, not wrong with you. Religion is NOTHING like mental illness. Religion deserves to be ridiculed. Mental illness deserved to be treated, and those who have it deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.

    • http://purl.org/NET/JesseW/SundryStuff/ JesseW

      Oh what the heck, I’ll wade into this…

      The distinction that’s being mixed up here (starting with Gina’s rebuttal, and continued into the responses, most recently Alix’s, above) is between beliefs and actions.

      Religious beliefs are not that different from other mental phenomena (including mental illnesses). Among the ways they are alike is that they arn’t voluntary, that they are physical, and that they they can be affected (but not fully determined) in similar ways. These include, among other things, ingestion of pills (or liquids, foods, etc.), other mental processes (including mood), social pressure, rational argumentation, and personal experiences.

      People having mental phenomena (but not the phenomena themselves) deserve respect and dignity, no matter what the phenomena are (or how divorced from reality, or harmful they may be).

      All of this is quite separate from the many actions that religious people take, including professing their beliefs, evangelizing, and attempting to mold government and society in accordance with their particular sect. As the beliefs the actions are based on are false, and deceptive, and because many of the actions are plainly wrong on their own, the actions certainly deserve opposition, including criticism, mockery and ridicule.

      • Roving Rockhound, collector of dirt

        That sounds quite close to “hate the sin, not the sinner”. But to a point I agree – people can believe whatever they want as long as they don’t mess with my life. I do reserve the right to make fun of them for believing against all evidence, though.

        The difference between religious beliefs and mental illness is that, through rational study of your thoughts, you can get make a decision to change your religious beliefs. You could say that psychotherapy is also a rational look at what’s going on in your brain, but when you have a mental illness you can’t just decide that the whole thing makes no sense and suddenly get better.

        For example:

        If you think that god talks to you through prayer, but you analyze the issue and realize that there is no god, you will stop “hearing” his voice.

        My friend K, who has schizophrenia, knows perfectly well that the voices he hears are not real, but as much as he tries they won’t shut up.

        So no, religious beliefs are not equal to mental illness. One is a lie that you choose to believe, the other one is a physical problem that messes with your perception of reality.

  • Rieux

    I think that power-strip picture is only applicable to people named “Nate.”

  • you_monster

    Your unthinking loyal army will meet my thinking, disloyal rabble and vanish without a trace.

    Bullshit, everyone knows PZ’s horde is one giant group-thinking hive-mind that unthinkingly follows every intimation of their holy overlord*. So, it shall be a fair fight.

    *I know this because the trolls often tell me so

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches Ed Brayton

    Wow. You told me about this last night but I just read it. I am mystified by the whole thing. She misses the point so spectacularly and spends so much time attacking arguments you didn’t make that I have to wonder what speech she was watching. It couldn’t have been the same one.

  • Dhorvath, OM

    Unless you are one of those brain eating squid deities you may want to reconsider your assault.

  • TV200

    I claim dual allegiance. Liet serves two masters, so there is a precedent.

  • eNeMeE

    I serve all masters!

    …usually with applesauce. Applesauce goes with everything!

  • Anonymous
  • Ainuvande

    I couldn’t finish her rebuttal. It makes me sad that someone who is going into the field of clinical psychology wants people shut up about their mental illnesses.

    No, I take that back. It makes me mildly nauseous. I struggled with depression for five years before it finally got bad enough that my options were seek professional help or end it (I’m typing this, so I think you can guess what I chose). If depression weren’t stigmatized the way it is, my parents might have communicated to each other that it runs in both sides of my family. And they might have kept their eyes out for it and intervened before I shot my chances of academic excellence in the foot. Repeatedly.

    If seeking therapy were as common as seeking other types of medical help, I think a lot people would be much better off. One huge way to do that is to talk about it. I spend a lot of time talking about it one-on-one with people IRL. Not just when I’m doing well, either. I will share my mental state the same way I will share if I’ve sprained my ankle. Why? Because I think visibility is a huge component of destigmatization. I honestly believe that if we want to change the way society at large thinks about mental illness we need to stop whispering.

    I wish more depression therapy didn’t involve trusting in higher powers. I shouldn’t have to rule out half the people covered by my health insurance because they can’t fathom happiness without god. I wish people would stop saying that God gave me this challenge to overcome. Really? If so, can you produce him for me? I’d like to introduce him to the contents of my carving set. Genetics created the likelihood, triggered by circumstance. Here is where I see the atheist community stepping up. Don’t make me feel any more like a pariah than I already do. Don’t parrot myths about depression without doing some research, just like you would myths about homeopathy or how to “cure” the common cold. And, you know, keep being visible, in a bunch of ways.

    I feel like I’ve hijacked your comment thread, but I wanted to share my story, and say THANK YOU for sharing yours and motivating people with more regular internet access than I to try to create this piece of online community.