Columbus and Taxes

Another student writes, “I had no idea Columbus was such a jerk and evildoer! And this is what people’s taxes were paying for!”

The Way Not to Talk About Christianity, Part I

Let me preface what is going to be of necessity a preachy post by saying that I deeply respect everybody who is an atheist, an agnostic, a Pagan, a Muslim, a Hindu, a practicing Jew, a Buddhist, etc. Religious identification or lack thereof is a person’s way of answering the most important, crucial questions about the meaning of life, death, morality, ethics, and so on. Far be it from me to declare any method of addressing these vital issues as inferior or superior to any other.

What I want to talk about is that, often, people discuss Christianity without even trying to understand what it is, and that makes them look stupid. I’m sure that scientists and all the smart folks who understand evolution must be sick and tired to death of hearing ignoramuses proclaim, “Well, if the theory of evolution were true and people did descend from monkeys, we would see all those monkeys going through the process of becoming human right now. But we don’t, so evolution must be a load of rubbish.” It’s perfectly OK not to understand evolution. What is not OK is to address this complex theory with childish simplifications and consider yourself smarter than people who do understand it.

It’s the same with Christianity (and probably every other religion, but I’m not knowledgeable enough to talk about other religions, so I won’t.) Again, one is perfectly justified in saying, “Christianity doesn’t offer ME any useful tools for understanding the world.” It isn’t OK, though, to come up with some half-baked explanation about why this religion must be stoooopid without even stopping to consider the possibility that the generations upon generations of theologians and believers might have already heard these objections and maybe have even addressed them.

So here are some of these illiterate objections I’m truly getting tired of hearing:

1. If the Christian God is supposed to be benevolent and all-powerful, then why did he allow for things like Holocaust to happen? If he didn’t stop it then he might either be not benevolent or not that powerful.

The number of times I have heard this inanity (often proclaimed proudly by pretty well-educated people) is overwhelming. I always feel deep vicarious shame when I hear this statement.

Now let me tell you why this is a very stupid thing to say. And, once again, please excuse my preachiness. I always thought I could make a really good preacher, so maybe in my golden years I will try myself in this arena.

The Christian God (a.k.a simply “God” for the purposes of concision) does not deal in collectivities. He isn’t a social scientist. Groups, nations, social classes, ethnicities do not exist for him.

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all (Colossians 3:11).

This tells us that the Holocaust, a genocide of a huge group of people by another huge group of people, does not exist for God. God relates to each person individually, establishing a personal connection, a personal conversation, and a personal rendering of accounts with each person. The sum total of all these millions of individual conversations come up to events that we cannot fail to see as atrocious when we analyze them from the perspective of history.

You don’t expect a cardiac surgeon to conduct a triple bypass on an entire ethnic group simultaneously, right? Or to offer collective diagnoses to large groups of people? So why do you expect a religion that denies the very existence of a collectivity and that is all about intensely individual experiences to be a useful tool for a social scientist or a historian? Conversely, do you tell a sociologist that all her statistics must be wrong because your own experience is different from what her numbers show? Of course, you don’t (I hope) because you must surely understand that a sociologist does not address individual stories but, rather, draws general conclusions about groups of people. Such general conclusions can differ profoundly from your personal story.

Christianity as a system of beliefs simply cannot be used to analyze groups. It doesn’t work on that level. That is not its purpose. People who expect it to explain history or any interactions between masses of people remind me of that guy who asked, “Doctor, will I be able to play the violin after this operation?”

“I don’t see why not, given that we will just be removing your appendix,” the doctor responded.

“Oh, the miracle of modern medicine!” the patient exclaimed. “I never learned how to play the violin and now I will know how to do it!”

(To be continued. . .)

The Most Inane Post of the Week

And now let me present to you the most inane piece of writing about feminism I have seen in a while. Honestly, I’d much rather some people stayed away from topic they are not intellectually equipped to handle:

And the truth is, I do, I do appreciate the options. I understand that for years, women had no options and the fact that now we have them is decidedly a GOOD THING.

But sometimes it makes me wonder if all these options are weighing us down.

Because we have to make decision after decision after decision and then we feel we have to defend said decisions — to our parents, to our partners, to our friends, to ourselves. And as we defend our decisions, we relitigate them in our minds. Yes, it was the right decision to stay at home. Yes, it was the right decision to keep my name. Yes, it was the right decision to have only one child.

It’s strange because, actually, traditional definitions explain feminism as a movement to achieve equal rights and opportunities for women. But typically, men don’t actually have all these choices, or they don’t think they do, at any rate. Most men don’t decide whether or not to change their names; they don’t think about it all. Most men assume they will not stay at home with their children. And men never have to decide between a skirt or pants! Instead of having equal opportunities, it sometimes seems like women have more opportunities than men. And also more decisions. And more decision fatigue.

Of course, a decision whether to wear a skirt or pants is somehow so much more complicated and crucial than the decision to wear a sweatshirt, a dress shirt, or a T-shirt. Oh, the horrible, horrible feminism that gave us all these confusing wardrobe choices.

Aside from the very silly simplifications the author of the post I quoted uses here, the real issue that the post attempts to address in such an unintelligent way is that many people (completely irrespective of their gender) can’t decide whether they want to stick to the system of strict gender roles or move towards the system of gender equality.

“It would be great to have a successful career and make a shitload of money. However, if I fail at achieving that, will I still be able to gain my entire social validation from the fact that somebody married me?”

“Sure enough, it’s cool not to have to shoulder the financial burden of keeping the family all on my own. But would a financially independent woman still need me? Would she also expect me to contribute equally to housework? Because that would kind of suck.”

“Of course, I wouldn’t mind a husband who splits housework equally with me. But what if he ends up making a lot less money than I do? What he ends up being unemployed for months or for years? Am I ready to accept that I will have no source of financial support to rely on in exchange for being a woman?”

“I’d definitely like to live in the world where people come together and stay together not because they have no other way to make a living but simply because they love each other. However, if I don’t manage to interest any woman enough to love me for my own sake, will I still be able to purchase one (or two, or fifteen) for my own personal use?”

The sad truth for the yet undecided is that you really can’t have the proverbial cake after you have gleefully consumed it. You have to choose whether you want to live in a world where your genitals strictly define who you are and what you can do and reap all the attendant benefits and suffer the attendant limitations that this system imposes on you. Or, you can choose to accept the idea that having a penis or a vagina carries absolutely no social, political or economic meaning. Then, you will have a new set of limitations and rewards implicit in this way of being.

The good news, though, is that this is a choice you don’t have to keep making. Evaluate the benefits and the cost of each system to you, pick one, and stick to it. Only just decide already because all this “Sure, feminism is great but. . .” whining is getting too annoying.

Bad Blogging Suggestions

Many websites offer really bad advice to bloggers who want to improve their blog’s popularity. Here is an example of this type of advice offered by WordPress, of all places:

First of all, no, don’t pay for traffic. Especially if you blog with WordPress because it is very likely to get your blog closed down. By WordPress. Besides, these paid hits will momentarily swell your stats but will never bring any readers who are actually interested in reading a word of your content.

Also, bugging your friends and family members about the blog is a very bad idea. If anything, this strategy will make people hate the very idea of your blog, no matter how good your writing might be. It’s good when our friends show interest in our hobbies but they are not obligated to be interested. There are several blogs I love and read all the time. However, if their owners started sending me reminder emails, I’d be off their blogs in a flash.

Another Silly Quote

I think I will have to start a collection of silly quotes I find online because there are many of them and they are truly priceless. See this one for example:

Openly loving women, in a society premised on oppressing women, is prolly one of the most radical things you can do.

I found it here. It’s good to know that there are things that are even more subversive than not shaving one’s arm-pits, of course. However, the quote makes very little sense. Crowds of people openly love their wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters, female friends, grandmothers, aunts, etc. Many folks even go so far as to love other people’s wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters, female friends, grandmothers, aunts, etc. What’s so radical about this?

Or are we talking about loving all women in the world as some kind of a unified whole? Well, to use the term I discussed in my previous post, this is just creepy. What would you say about a person who proclaimed they loved Jews? Or Nigerians? Or Ukrainians?

And I’m not even going to get started on “a society premised on oppressing women.”

So then I researched this quote and discovered that it was initially a tweet that many people picked up, retweeted, reposted, and reblogged. This is even more proof that only the silliest statements make it to Twitter popularity.

Semi-Open Thread

What do you think about the following posters? What message do they try to communicate in your opinion and how do you feel about it?

I found the posters here. (Attention: it’s a blog in Russian, even though the posters are not.)

Please share your thoughts.