Tuesday, March 13, 2012

From comments: politeness, presentation, and ethics

I'm not sure how to introduce this, exactly. It showed up as an afterthought in the comments on one of the older posts, and I think it deserves a response, but I don't want to further clutter up that comment thread. Also, I don't really want everyone else to charge over there and respond. It's not that I don't treasure each and every one of your comments, dear readers; nothing warms my heart like finding that someone has not only read my stuff, but left an (invariably) interesting and thoughtful response. It's just that that particular thread is more than busy enough with just two of us commenting on it, at present.

...But I digress. Anonymous Commenter observed the following:

Sidebar......I just was on a blog where out of 10 comments by atheists I read bullshit, horseshit, bitch and fuck-2'x. So, atheist's morals....show. Atheists don't have problem hating what Christians say but you'all have built a fine reputation for yourselves too.
Several thoughts come to mind, here. The first, of course, is that using swear words doesn't strike me as a useful measure of moral character. Swearing can be impolite, in some circumstances; crude, to be sure; but we're not exactly talking world-devouring evil, here.

The second thought that comes to mind is, "You're talking to the wrong sort of atheists." Except, I need to qualify that, because I'm perfectly well aware that there are atheists out there who are hostile to, contemptuous of, and rude about religion. Are they the majority, or even common, or are they just a particularly vocal minority? I don't know. I do know that if I only focused on a certain group of Christian blogs, I'd come away convinced that Christians are highly judgemental, death-obsessed, and unapologetically rude. And I'd be wrong. But neither Christians nor atheists are a monolithic group; trying to talk about atheists in general is about as useful as trying to talk about Christians in general - or men in general, for that matter.

But speaking for myself - though I believe that most of my atheistic readership feels much the same - being irreligious in no way requires me to be anti-religious. For the most part, I don't much care. Occasionally something catches my eye that I think is worth poking fun at, or otherwise dissecting; but for the most part, I have no particular interest in trying to convince religious people that they ought not to be religious, or making fun of them of them for being religious per se.


  1. Sidebar......I just was on a blog where out of 10 comments by atheists I read bullshit, horseshit, bitch and fuck-2'x. So, atheist's morals....show. Atheists don't have problem hating what Christians say but you'all have built a fine reputation for yourselves too.

    Here's my thing: One of those cuss-words isn't directed at "what Christians say." It's directed towards the Christians -- presumably Christians who also happen to be women -- themselves.

    The fact that Anonymous doesn't make a distinction between calling a belief "bullshit" and calling a person a "bitch" here is problematic. It's also problematic to me that Anonymous does not go on to call out the fact that the latter is not only a cuss-word, but is an expression of misogyny.

  2. Good point; I skipped over the distinction between using swear words (essentially harmless in itself) and using swear words to denigrate other people (not harmless, and not okay).

  3. It's also interesting to me that Anonymous hasn't come to comment on this thread. She knows it's here.

    I have a theory...

  4. Interesting. Time stamp on comments - at least on my screen - is two hours early compared to my local time.

  5. Ah, good ol' tone trolling...

    This is one of those things that annoys the hell out of me. Christians, specifically of the type who will anonymously tone troll, define morals as in-group or out-group. So they say, "We don't use cuss words, therefore people who do are immoral."

    Well, guess what? That's bullshit. Horseshit, even. It's also fucking asinine and fucking infantile. Erm. Sorry, had to get that out of my system.

    There's nothing inherently immoral about words. Certain words, generally the ones used by -- or dogwhistled at -- by bigots have become genuinely and inherently bad. But that's due to received usage and the general perceived intent. This is why it's one thing for a rapper to stand up and use the n-word in a song and another thing entirely for a white person from Mississippi to say we need to throw that n-word out of the White House.

    The word itself is neutral. The word has done no violence to the world. However, large amounts of violence have been done by those who use the word and, as such, it's not one to be tossed around in the vast majority of contexts and certainly shouldn't be cavalierly used by an out-group with a historical tendency of repression and oppression.

    Meanwhile, your standard cuss words? Yeah, who gives a shit? They're just words. Anyone who says otherwise is simply trying to tone troll and set themselves up as superior because they're on one side of a line that they, themselves drew. That line means nothing to me. And defending that line is why everyone on the outside laughs, rather than getting oh-so-worried and asking to please be forgiven. We just don't care.

    Of course, I started cussing long before I left the church. Drinking, too. So, ha!


Feel free to leave comments; it lets me know that people are actually reading my blog. Interesting tangents and topic drift just add flavor. Linking to your own stuff is fine, as long as it's at least loosely relevant. Be civil, and have fun!