Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Assumptions About Religion, and American Rules of Etiquette

Ever wonder why more people don't express - or admit - their religious views in public? And why the folks who do are sometimes a bit on the fanatical side?

This post may, I think, give a little insight on why nice people who like to fit in keep quiet about their faith. If the topic sounds familiar, you may have been reading this blog. I posted something about America's dominant culture and those religious people recently:

"Close Minded Fools"

The online community Twitter is a pretty good place to meet people and communicate - 140 characters at a time. Also a pretty good place for shameless self-promotion. I'm there for both reasons.

Besides, since I tend to ramble that 140 character limit makes for good exercise in brevity.

This morning I discovered that I was still remembering an online encounter that happened yesterday.

During that conversation I was asked, "Do they really let close minded fools such as urself teachkids"

Well, by that young man's definitions, I am a close minded fool: like Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Augustine of Hippo, or Saint Francis of Assisi. And, more recently, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

If not believing that religion is bad makes me a fool, like those folks: that's something I can live with.

Still, like many people, I don't like being called a fool.

Being 'Green' With My Thoughts and Emotions

Yesterday I also ran into a few remarks about saving poor, delicate little Mother Nature from big, bad Japan.1 Don't get me wrong: I think that recycling is a good idea, that we need to be careful about what we do to animals, and that it's really stupid to dump raw sewage into our drinking water.


Maybe I can apply the idea behind recycling to what's been sloshing around in my head today. That "fool" remark won't 'just go away' - I've tried. So maybe instead of trying to throw it out, I should make use of the remark and my responses to it.

"Recycling" the ideas and emotions. Sort of. Or dwelling on them. I'm not sure which.

Growing Weary of 'Tolerance'

Here's a sequence of 'Tweets' I posted yesterday, after that 'fool' experience, and after reading some culturally-normative remarks about Japan. They're arranged with the most recent on top, the earliest at the bottom:
"There's 'tolerance' and there's tolerance: My take
"about 19 hours ago via web"

"Before anyone has a stroke: that 'I've grown weary' tweet was after reading a number of messages from various sources today.
"about 19 hours ago via web"

"I don't agree, but I sympathize with the fellow who said, 'we learn from history that we learn nothing from history.'
"about 19 hours ago via web"

"Of course, by some standards Japan deserves abuse. They kill whales and stuff like that. Anybody else reminded of WWII propaganda?
"about 19 hours ago via web"

"I've grown weary of the sort of 'tolerance' that says 'fu*k Japan' and belittles those who are not in alignment with the day's trends.
"about 19 hours ago via web"
(Aluwir/Brian Gill, on Twitter (April 13, 2010))
That "fu*k Japan" remark was made by a person who has great enthusiasm for saving the whales and other precious creatures. I'm okay with having environmental concerns, to some extent. I am a trifle less convinced of the need to keep Earth's ecosystem exactly the way it was in about 1800 than some folks are: but that's another topic.

On the other hand, closing a considered statement with "fu*k Japan" is over the top for me. I recognize that Japanese culture, government, and business are not perfect: but whose is? And I remember the sort of racist propaganda that was still drifting around in the decade or two after WWII. "Disgusting" is about the nicest term I can think of to describe that sort of attitude.

I might not have responded so vehemently, though, if I hadn't just emerged from a slow-motion discussion of religion and the 'close-minded fools' who believe.

Here's that series of 'Tweets.' Again, they go from most recent at the top to earliest at the bottom. I've redacted the person's screen name, and put that individual's remarks in bold.
"@[redacted] I have studied the Catholic faith. It's not close to the dominant culture at Amherst or Berkeley, but then: I would say that.
"about 19 hours ago via web in reply to [redacted]"

"@[redacted] Yes. And I suppose that, since I don't agree with you, I must be a close minded fool?
"about 19 hours ago via web in reply to [redacted]"

"@Aluwir take another look at ur religous doctrine then. its full of whoppers. Do they really let close minded fools such as urself teachkids
"about 22 hours ago via Seesmic in reply to Aluwir"

"@[redacted] Actually, I do. I've heard too many whoppers repeated as fact to do otherwise. I'm not suspicious: just careful.
"about 23 hours ago via web in reply to [redacted]"

"@Aluwir ROFL! thanks for the CIA link.. Don't act like you need a credible source to believe something.
"about 23 hours ago via web in reply to Aluwir"

"@[redacted] 'ignorance?' Okay: if assuming that religion is, by definition, being ignorant[!], yes, I'm ignorant. That, I can live with.
"1:53 PM Apr 12th via web in reply to [redacted]"

"@[redacted] I'd hesitate to say that around 95% of Americans are forced to do evil things. But then I'm one of 'those' people.
"1:52 PM Apr 12th via web in reply to [redacted]"

"@[redacted] but first: 'majority' is not 'in crowd' by definition. Exclusivity is - exclusive.
"1:51 PM Apr 12th via web in reply to [redacted]"

"@[redacted] source: (I know: CIA - but this resource checks out.)
"1:50 PM Apr 12th via web in reply to [redacted]"

"@[redacted] 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4% (2007 est.)
"1:49 PM Apr 12th via web in reply to [redacted]"

"@[redacted] a recent breaklout[!]:Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian
"1:49 PM Apr 12th via web in reply to [redacted]"

"@[redacted] I'd say nominally religious. The breakout is - this is over 140 characters.
"1:47 PM Apr 12th via web in reply to [redacted]"

"@Aluwir and about 95% of Americans are religious so I'd say your a the in crowd.. there is no place for ignorance in todays modern world.
"1:35 PM Apr 12th via TweetDeck in reply to Aluwir"

"@[redacted] If my remarks upset you, I'm sincerely sorry.
"1:26 PM Apr 12th via web in reply to [redacted]"

"@[redacted] That religion=bad has been required belief for the in crowd since the sixties and before. I bought it myself, for a while.
"1:26 PM Apr 12th via web in reply to [redacted]"

"@[redacted] Tony Alamo's? Yes.
"1:24 PM Apr 12th via web in reply to [redacted]"

"(posted by [redacted]) without religion, good ppl would do good things & evil ppl would do evil things. But for good ppl to do evil thing, that takes religion
"1:11 PM Apr 12th via API"
(Twitter thread, started April 12, 2010)

This was An Avoidable Discussion

I'll admit that I brought that "ignorant fools" remark on myself. After reading "without religion, good ppl would do good things & evil ppl would do evil things. But for good ppl to do evil thing, that takes religion" I could have done what America's dominant culture expects of people. I could have stifled my religious beliefs and remained politely silent.

Americans aren't supposed to mention their religious views. Unless they're the 'right sort' of views, of course. But that's yet another topic.

And I suppose that this could be considered inflammatory: "If my remarks upset you, I'm sincerely sorry." My excuse is that I've learned that people with, ah, sincerely held beliefs - like Christian fundamentalists and born-again atheists - don't always react well when someone ventures to disagree with them.

Yes: I could have remained demurely silent. But I think that one reason that America is in the mess it's in is that too many people who didn't agree with what's now the dominant culture remained silent. In a way, good for them. It's nice to be nice.

But it's not, I think, always good to be nice. And that is definitely another topic.

I also may have erred in using the phrase "in crowd." When I was growing up the "in crowd" wasn't the majority. It was a clique. Several, actually. Depending on how you sliced the local population, the "in crowd" was the intellectual wannabes who quoted the more earnest pop philosophers, the nonconformists who conformed to that dress code and lifestyle, and (so I've heard) the cheerleaders and jocks.

Actually, in the school I went to the jocks and the cheerleaders were, for the most part, among the more relaxed and egalitarian students. But that's just my experience. Good grief: I've gone off-topic again.

Back in the sixties, an "in crowd" would have stopped being "in" if it included even close to a majority of the local population. The whole point of being "in" was to avoid common, everyday people.

Avoidable, Yes: Or Maybe No

I've heard paraphrases of "without religion, good ppl would do good things & evil ppl would do evil things. But for good ppl to do evil thing, that takes religion" for decades. I even bought into the notion that "organized religion" was a bad idea for a while. I was in my teens at the time. But instead of believing with my entire endocrine system that all religion was bad - I studied the matter. And, a few decades later, converted to Catholicism.

I also took a really hard look at communism and monarchy as viable models for economics and government: using the same sort of critical scrutiny I gave capitalism and democracy (not the same thing, by the way). (As a result, I'm not a red-white-and-blue-blooded American, but I think I understand why people are trying to break into this country.)

Swept Away by Feelings

When someone comes out with that tired old "without religion, good ppl would do good things & evil ppl would do evil things. But for good ppl to do evil thing, that takes religion," I think I have an obligation to suggest an alternative view.

Particularly this year, when so much that 'everybody knows' about the Catholic Church and the Pope is - alternatively accurate. And when, in my opinion, a flood of emotion about those wicked priests is spilling over to include all priests, Catholics, and Christians. Is that sort of generalization reasonable? No: but since when have emotions occurred on the basis of cold reason?

I've been a Christian as long as I can remember. I converted to Catholicism after a long and serious look at what was involved. On the whole, I'd rather be thought an ignorant fool for suggesting that my Lord's church does not promote evil, than be silent.

Actually, Yes: I do Need a Credible Source

Finally: [redacted] made an interesting statement: "Don't act like you need a credible source to believe something." I suppose I could take that as a sort of compliment.

The fact is, though, that I do need a credible source to believe something. I'm a passionate man, and feel things very intensely. But to believe something: I need to have facts. Or at least the opinion of a person or organization with a rock-solid reputation for credibility.

For me, "believing" is not the same as "feeling." (April 13, 2010, February 19, 2009, March 17, 2009)

Related posts:
1 The remark about Japan was:
"RT @[redacted]: : Japanese whalers blame Sea Shepherd for smallest catch in years Victory! fu*k japan!!!
1:44 PM Apr 13th via TweetDeck"


Brigid said...

Oy ve.

Hey, Dad, here's a digital hug. ()

Oh, and you forgot to reapply the italics for this statement: ":Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brigid said...

Oh and a 'by the way' there seems to be two copies of this post on my dashboard, one doesn't have a title. Thought you'd want to know.

Brian H. Gill said...

Brigid (9:56 PM),

Oy ve, indeed. I gave this bit of weirdness a more thought than I usually do: But, as I wrote, I decided to 'recycle' what I'd experienced.

We gotta 'think green,' you know!

Thanks for the 'digital hug' - right back at you. ()

About the italics? Thanks! Fixed it. Under the circumstances, I'm glad/surprised there weren't more glitches. This post was not, from a technical point of view, the easiest to assemble.

Brian H. Gill said...

Brigid (9:59 PM),

'Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!'

Which doesn't have much to do with that phantom post.

Here's what happened. I hit the wrong button, while putting this post together: and 'published' it 'way before its time. I copied what I'd done to another, new, post and deleted the first one.

'It seemed like a good idea at the time.'

Thanks for reading & proofing.

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.