Category Archives: Religious belief

What would make you believe?

From Atheist Meme Base.

There is a pretty common thing amongst atheists and Christians to ask the other side “what would it take to change your mind?” I’m not sure why this is the case. Perhaps both sides have been arguing for so long that there’s just nothing new under the sun and people are out of ideas on how to convert each other. Maybe it just seems like the other side is intractable and that asking them what would change their mind is a more direct way of figuring out what to say next. Maybe it’s just a desperate way to keep the debate going.

We must be clear that there are two different issues here: what would it take for an atheist to become a theist, and what would it take for an atheist to become a Christian.

My answer to the first question is: nothing. There is no possible evidence or motivation that could make me become a theist.

Let me take one of the “miracles” commonly cited as possible evidence of the existence of God: the stars aligning in a way that spells out something coherent, like “Jesus is Lord.” What would we make of such an event?

It seems to me that there are much more reasonable explanations than to believe that the event was engineered by God:

* Perhaps I am hallucinating.
* Perhaps my vision was tampered with in some way.
* Perhaps I am the victim of some elaborate prank.
* Perhaps the light coming to the Earth was tampered with by aliens.
* Perhaps I am a brain in a vat.
* Perhaps I am part of an elaborate dream.

Some of these explanations are obviously absurdly improbable, but they are still more probable than God’s existence. Unlike the God hypothesis, each of these explanations can be understood in an empirical way, and none of them rely on things we cannot define even in theory.

The basic issue here is that supernaturalist hypotheses are fundamentally untestable. To have evidence of the existence of God means to have evidence of supernatural intervention on our reality, and that’s logically impossible.

Why do many atheists say otherwise? I am not sure, but I think one issue is that atheists generally do not want to be portrayed as close-minded. To tell a Christian than nothing could change your mind may mean surrendering the “reasonableness” of open-ended “I just don’t see any reason to believe” atheism. But the only end result is that Christianity will be portrayed as more “reasonable”; it will not make Christians like atheists because their irrational hatred of atheists is based on their childhood indoctrination, not simply on false premises that can be corrected by appearing “reasonable.”

No doubt some atheists seriously believe that they could be convinced of the existence of God on such a basis. But then I’d say they were not very serious atheists, if it was so easy for them to believe all the God stories based on one event, however incredible…

Now on the second question, what it would take for me to become a Christian. It may seem like this is a non-issue, given what I’ve just said: since Christianity is based on the God concept, and I’ve rejected the possibility of the God concept, there must therefore be nothing that could ever make me into a Christian.

Still, I think that this general reasoning is incorrect, that in a sense it may be easier for one to become a Christian than to believe in God. Right now there is a significant proportion of Christians (in the UK 46%, in the US somewhere around 13%) who do not believe in a personal god. That’s food for thought, but most importantly it shows that identifying as a Christian does not necessarily mean believing in God, because religion is as much as matter of cultural identification as it is a matter of belief, an important point which the atheist movement largely ignores.

It’s another thing entirely to ask whether these people are really Christian. After all, one is a Christian, supposedly, by believing Jesus was the son of God, which would imply belief in God. But one does not necessarily have to agree with the fundamental premises of a religion to be a follower of said religion. There are some Buddhists, especially in the West, who do not believe in the soul but who meditate and follow the Five Precepts: are they Buddhists? I don’t see why not.

It’s not really relevant to the question anyway. What would it take for me to identify as a Christian? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s impossible, but I can’t imagine any plausible scenario that starts with myself as I am today and ends with me being a Christian. The ethics of Christianity, the narratives of Christianity, the sensibilities of Christianity, the politics of Christianity, the psycho-sexual fabric of Christianity, are all so profoundly aberrated and disgusting that it would require quite a drastic change in my personality (major brain damage, perhaps) to get me to even begin to accept it. I already have two religions anyway, and I don’t really need a third one.

I suppose a Christian could reply that I have never found myself in a situation where my atheism could have been tested. I wouldn’t say that’s true, however: I have had many strange experiences in my life that I certainly cannot explain. But unlike religionists, I do not have the reflex action that goes from “I can’t explain this” to “God did it” in 3.4 seconds. I am perfectly fine with (gasp!) not knowing something that’s obscured by the passage of time and the subjectivity of perception. Praise “Bob” and pass the ammo…

But here’s something further to think about: Christians may not be entirely honest when they ask the question. William Lane Craig, the most acclaimed living Christian theologian, has publicly said that if he went back in time and observed Jesus’ tomb, and never saw Jesus come back to life, he would still be a Christian. You can read about it here.

If William Lane Craig himself could not be convinced by such a direct, observable and fatal piece of evidence, then what could exactly?

Looking at the presuppositionalist script.

Picture of Sye Ted Bruggencate, infamous presuppositionalist who’s been making a fool of himself lately on many atheist podcasts and vidcasts.

Presuppositional apologists have been making the rounds in the atheist community for decades now, and it’s now become very obvious that they work on a script which only works if the atheist goes along with it. The problem with that is, it’s ridiculously easy for an unsuspecting atheist to derail the script simply by answering honestly. So presups generally don’t get anywhere, fast.

Karen S. made a step-by-step analysis of the presuppositionalist script in this entry. I thought this was a very interesting tool to look at and analyze. I am not going to go through every single step, but I do want to take a closer look at the general flow that the presuppositionist is trying to establish through his script and why it’s profoundly irrational.

Karen starts by pointing out that the whole process starts from the presupposition that God exists. I would further add that it also assumes that the concept of God is meaningful at all. I think that point does get lost in the discussion, insofar as the atheist starts the conversation letting the apologist make his case (actually, going down his script). This is probably the right thing to do in this circumstance, but it does give the presup a huge argumentative lead, not that they can exploit it to any advantage.

So the first question proper is, “Is it impossible for the god of the Bible to exist?” This seems to me to be an incredibly unwise question, as it brings up, quite directly, the issue of the meaninglessness of the concept of God.

Anyway, the obvious reply here is “yes.” Christian apologetics assumes that anything is possible if you can imagine it, but that’s not a view grounded in reality. In order to state that anything is possible, you have to show, at least, that the concept is consistent with itself and the basic facts of reality. This is Mission Impossible for theologians, the failure of centuries of theology, useless and irrelevant to human life.

At this point I think the presup would skip to question 11 and ask how I can rely on my own judgment, and so on. I will address that when we get there.

Step 2 is “Is it impossible for the Bible to be what it claims to be?” This is pretty similar to the previous question, so I won’t get into it further.

Step 3 is “Could you be wrong about everything you claim to know?” The answer they’re going for is “yes.” Here, Karen brings up an extremely clever answer, which is “No, because I am 100% certain that I am not the god you worship.” This is extremely clever and I don’t see how an apologist could possibly answer that.

The problem here is that step 3 is essential to the whole script. If you derail it, you’ve basically overturned the whole thing. So this would seem to be a rather major flaw. But the funny thing is that there’s no reason at all for the presup to rely on this step. All they really need to do is cast some doubt on the atheist’s ability to understand reality, not total doubt. It doesn’t really matter if the atheist can be 100% certain about anything or not. It just goes to show you how presuppositionalism is really based on nihilism and cannot be dissociated from it.

Step 5 is about “absolute truth.” Christians are obsessed about “absolute truth” because they believe they have it and others don’t. Christians operate under the delusion that the Bible provides them with absolute morality, absolute truth, absolute love. Absoluteness is their Holy Grail, their salvation, but they can never have it.

By discussing whether “absolute truth” exists or not, we’re really feeding their obsession about it. So there’s really no point in answering. Their trick of course is that if you say “no,” they can then come back and ask “do you know that absolutely?” It’s a parlor trick.

Step 7 is “Out of all the knowledge in the universe, how much do you have?” The answer they’re hoping to get is perhaps 1% or 0.1% or some even lower number. The interesting thing about this question is that it’s another trap: there is no knowledge “in the universe.” Knowledge is a human construct contained in our minds and in the objects in which we conserve data. This implies that, while an individual may only know a tiny sliver of all knowledge, humanity as a whole possesses 100% of all knowledge by definition (and any other sentient species in the universe may also say the same thing).

This answer defeats step 8, which is “Is there something in the 99% that could contradict the 1%?” What this is about is, could proof of God be contained in the 99% of knowledge that we don’t have, out there? But again, we have 100% of the knowledge that exists, there’s no knowledge “out there.” Objects are not knowledge.

So somewhere around this point the presup will either be asked how he knows anything, or will try to present his own “thesis.” This is displayed in point 9: “God has revealed things to me in a way that I can be certain.”

The obvious counter is, how the hell can you be certain of that? Remember that he’s already rejected the certainty of any of the atheist’s knowledge, which is gained through the senses. But presumably he’s aware of these revelations through his own senses, which you’ve already established cannot be certain. This is where the apologist’s nihilistic “cutting off one’s head” strategy falls on its face.

Karen’s comment on this point illustrates the problem. If the atheist could be wrong about the source of his percepts, then the apologist could be wrong about the source of his “revelations.” If the atheist could be deceived about anything, then the apologist could also be deceived. If the apologist can assert arbitrarily that some of his sensory input can be pinned down with certainty, then so can the atheist.

There is no way for the apologist to get out of this deadlock. If he argued from the Bible, as he inevitably will, then we must demand that the apologist admit that his perception of the Bible could be as flawed as any other perception. Whatever evidence, whatever means of knowledge presented by the apologist must at some point go through human senses and be processed by a human mind.

Skipping ahead to the next presup parlor trick, the next magician’s misdirection, which starts on step 11: “How do you know that your reasoning is valid?” Unless you’ve thought about epistemic issues, you’re unlikely to have a good answer. The presup is hoping to get a “soft” answer in order to set up the next step: “Are there people whose reasoning isn’t valid? How do you know that you’re not one of those people?”

Well obviously there are people whose reasoning isn’t valid. Presuppositionalists, for example. We know their reasoning is not valid because they’re making basic logic errors and are caught in their own reasoning traps.

We have no “absolute” way of knowing that we’re not irrational. But we can gradually improve through two methods: gathering more and better data, and improving our reasoning methods. I know I’m not one of those people because I can see the difference in reasoning abilities and scope of data between myself and a person who is outright irrational.

Do some people reason better than me? Certainly. So what? The quality of one’s reasoning is not an on-off switch, you’re not either a lunatic or a genius. There’s no such thing as a “person whose reasoning isn’t valid.” Our reasoning is always at least sometimes valid, and sometimes invalid.

The snapping of the trap is supposed to be that the atheist is using reason to figure out if ey’re being rational, and that therefore eir reasoning is inherently circular. Even if that was the case, the apologist’s reasoning would be equally circular, because relying on revelation still implies using one’s capacity to reason, which falls under the same problem.

The answer is that the kind of reasoning we use to determine, say, whether angels exist is not the same kind of reasoning we use to introspect on our own reasoning abilities and that of others. One should, ideally, be a process turned outwards, at understanding reality, while the other should be a process turned inwards. Calling all of it “reasoning” is to muddle the issue; one can be particularly good at one and not the other.

Step 13 is an extension of this: “What are you using to justify senses and reasoning?” This is another example of cutting one’s own head. If the atheist cannot trust the senses, then neither can the apologist when he reads the Bible or claims revelation. I’m sorry if this seems somewhat repetitious, but the presup script is repetitious.

The saddest fact is that they do not, and cannot, understand this, because doing so would make presuppositionalism untenable to them. They must believe that revelation is a sure foundation to a “stable epistemology,” because otherwise they have no “out” to the trap they’ve set on human epistemology. But whatever they do, they cannot escape the fact that they are human like the rest of us. That’s something Christians have major problems with, so it’s not surprising that presups do too.

At this point in time, most atheist outlets have given up trying to have reasonable debates with presups because its scripted nature and delusional assumptions are just too obvious to ignore.

On step 15, we enter the beginning of the conclusion of the script: ” The Christian worldview is the only consistent/plausible one because of the impossibility of the contrary!” You probably know that all theological arguments are rationalizations for some pre-established conclusion. Step 15 is that conclusion.

It’s also, as pretty much everyone who’s been confronted with it has figured out, an argument from ignorance and a circular argument. It’s really as simple as this:

1. Only an ideology founded on the Christian God could be consistent.
2. Therefore I can’t imagine that any other worldview could be consistent.
3. Therefore only Christianity can be consistent.

This is where the whole script was leading (consider steps 9, 11 and 13 especially). It’s about hammering home the point that your (atheistic) worldview cannot be consistent (because of the Christian’s profound nihilism), and that the Christian worldview is consistent (somehow, despite that profound nihilism). And now, this is supposed to be the final blow.

Unfortunately, it’s nonsensical. It’s an argument from ignorance because the apologist has absolutely no way to survey all possible atheistic worldviews and declare them all fraudulent, unless he can show that there’s something inherent about atheism which makes it automatically inconsistent with reality. The script fails to establish this.

It’s also a circular argument, like all theology, because it assumes the conclusion it seeks to establish. The apologist uses his assumption that God is necessary for a “stable epistemology” to “prove” that Christianity is the only consistent worldview. We’re not going anywhere except in a circle here.

Step 16 is more or less a reiteration of the first proposition of the last argument: “The laws of logic, science, morality which we use everyday are universal, immaterial and unchanging. How does a strictly natural world account for such unchanging laws?” A lot can be said about this rather quixotic question. What about naturalism prevents the existence of “unchanging laws”? Again, this is little more than an argument from ignorance (also, there is nothing universal, immaterial or unchanging about these laws: for instance, the laws of nature break down at the Big Bang).

Further, as Karen points out, how does Christianity account for the existence of these laws? A world where God exists is an inherently subjective world where universality cannot logically exist. I’ve written about this as a form of atheist apologetics called materialist apologetics.

Either way, looking out at the world for an explanation of the existence of natural laws is the wrong tack: we must look at the human mind instead. Laws are the way we articulate the ways in which objects in the universe interact with each other, the ways in which the concepts in our head interact with each other. How we formulate knowledge is the result of the way our brain works. But this is way beyond what the script can handle.

And we end with step 17, which just hammers in the same conclusion: “The only thing that can make sense of the immaterial, unchanging, universal laws of logic, science and morality is an immaterial, unchanging, universal god–the god of the bible and of scripture.” No point in rehashing the same counters I’ve already made. This is, again, an argument from ignorance and a circular argument.

I’ve previously shown the manipulative nature of Christian evangelism with Norman Geisler’s shady tactics. The presuppositionalist script is no different, with one exception: it’s so easily defeated that atheists routinely do it on accident, which is just pathetic.

Impositionists and their problems with consent.

In this entry, I want to make some general observations about some common characteristics that impositionists seem to share. When I say “impositionists,” I am referring to people who hold to an ideology which explicitly advocates imposing harm.

Invariably they have reasons why such imposition is just or reasonable (e.g. innate evil or sinful nature, innate gender, the innate stupidity of children and other species, might makes right, etc). I do not care about these reasons, or at least not in this entry. All I will say is that only the limit cases (e.g. saving someone’s life by pulling them out of harm’s way) have been proven justified; every systemic imposition of harm in our society is blatantly unjustified. Of course they don’t really care about justification anyway: harmful power has no motive to deconstruct itself, only its victims do.

* They have major issues with consent.

My first issue is that of consent. Consent is a vitally important topic because it represents the bare minimum standard that must be met by any action for it to be non-coercive; advocates of most ideologies are keenly interested in portraying them as non-coercive for the same general reason as advocates of some pseudo-science want to portray it as scientific: being explicitly unscientific or coercive is considered bad form in this day and age.

So again let me list the criteria for consent to be present. First, the obvious:

1. There must be a clear signal of approval of the action.

This is merely a slight extension of the standard definition. And now, for the corollaries:

2. If there is no signal that one or the other party would accept as a refusal (no alternative), then there can be no signal of approval either, and no consent.
3. A signal of agreement given where there is a credible alternative, but said alternative is not viable due to pre-existing conditions, is as invalid as one given without actual alternatives.
4. Any signal of agreement given under a threat of force is the product of duress, not approval, and is therefore not consent.
5. In a situation where one of the parties cannot communicate, there can be no consent.
6. If the signal of agreement cannot be given prospectively (i.e. to the action itself), then there is no possibility of consent for that action.

I would say that all impositionist ideologies break at least one of these principles. Before I get into examples, I do want to point out that probably all these ideologies fall into most categories I’ve listed, and when I say that a given ideology breaks a particular point, I am not by any means implying that there’s nothing else wrong with its attitude towards consent.


* Most religions heavily rely on childhood indoctrination in order to propagate. This breaks point 3, as childhood indoctrination is most definitely a “pre-existing condition” that makes alternatives (to belief in the religion one was raised in) non-viable. A person cannot be meaningfully said to consent to anything that they’ve been indoctrinated to believe (e.g. we don’t say a cult member consented to the hardships of being in a cult, such as false imprisonment or human trafficking).

The religious call it “freedom of religion.” They are incapable of explaining how being indoctrinated and peer pressured into a religion which keeps you in by threatening eternal torment has anything to do with “freedom.”

* Genderism is similar to religion in that it’s indoctrinated from the youngest age, and therefore there cannot be any freedom to live without some conception of gender, gender hierarchy and gender roles (which are all the same thing). It’s equally meaningless to say that the performance of gender is consensual, in any form.

* Statism always assumes that anyone born within a nation’s borders “implicitly consents” to whatever the State makes into law. As a citizen, you simply have no means to signal disagreement with the law, breaking point 2 (prejudice against prisoners would also enter into this).

Yes, I know, the standard argument is that voting is the signal of agreement. But that’s not really true, is it? Otherwise non-voters could veto any law applied to them, which obviously does not happen.

Another argument is that staying in a country is the signal of agreement to the laws of that country. But we don’t use this “go away if you don’t like the rules” in any other context. Either way, it’s only further proof that there’s no means to signal disagreement (compare to telling a child “you can’t get beaten by your dad if you just run away!”).

Related to statism is imperialism and neo-liberalism, which follow the same general pattern, except applied to other countries. You will be liberated whether you like it or not; consent is always assumed.

* Capitalism relies on pre-existing conditions for its docile workforce (poverty, expensive education, creation of artificial unemployment, need for medical insurance in the US). It is therefore part of point 3. The conditions that make capitalism possible (property rights, money system, corporatism) are set by States, so what I’ve said for statism applies here as well.

The usual sort of reply you get to capitalist consent issues is that no one has to take any specific job. That may be so, but it doesn’t provide an alternative to capitalism. Faced with the massive inequality, environmental destruction, human rights violations, objectification, servility and conformity inherent in capitalism, it’s natural to want alternatives. People do not naturally want to work for other people’s profit margin or to have no control over what they produce.

* As a way of often dealing with having limited possibilities (or no possibilities, in the case of trafficked women) within the capitalist system and often as a result of parental abuse ingrained in the personality, prostitution is also part of point 3.

* Natalism, insofar as it assumes consent to being born where consent cannot be obtained, breaks point 5. The usual natalist answer is that we should assume implicit consent because it’s necessary in order for them to experience the pleasures of being alive (compare with: brown people implicitly consent to us “liberating” them and will be happy later, after we’re done killing them).

But mostly natalists just don’t care about consent, because they assume that the impossibility of consent is a carte blanche to do anything you want, which is absolutely illogical and delusional. Impossibility of consent basically means you are not allowed to do anything, because consent is, again, the absolute bare minimum criterion.

* Pornography and BDSM both fall under point 6: they both pretend to be concerned with consent and contracts, but only prospectively, which means that there can be no agreement on specific acts.

Advocates would, I suppose, argue that a contract is enough agreement to signal consent to any act that’s part of it. But if you sign a contract to perform a series of acts, and then no longer wish to perform one of the acts but are coerced or intimidated into performing it, that’s rape pure and simple. No contract can contradict this fact.

* Misopedia and carnism, two ideologies which posit a hierarchy where children/other species occupy the bottom rung, both partake of point 1, because they just don’t care if children or other species consent. The “lower intelligence” argument supposedly justifies exploiting children and other species. Guess who gets to define intelligence? Adult humans, of course. Surprise, surprise.

When you do point out to misopedists and carnists that they are simply ignoring consent issues, they will use the “lower intelligence” argument to posit that children/other species cannot consent, therefore justifying coercion against them. Again, this is logical nonsense.


I cannot think of a single ideology which explicitly creates harm and does not also attack consent in some way. This is not too surprising, as they are also all hierarchies, hierarchies set people apart as superiors and inferiors, and inferiors cannot have the same freedoms as their superiors; a child cannot have the same freedom as a parent, a cow cannot have the same freedom as a human, a sub cannot have the same freedom as a dom, a worker cannot have the same freedom as a boss. There must be some imposition, and that imposition cannot be consensual (the superior-inferior relation is based on obedience backed by power, not consent), for a hierarchy to be maintained.

Note that you could do this same analysis with the term “scientific” and show how various pseudo-sciences line up.

What is the perspective on consent from their perspective? One credible model was made by Tom W. Bell and is called the “scale of consent”:

Now, from a rational standpoint, only the very first item on this scale- “negociated exchange”- is actually a form of consent (“standardized exchange” implies giving consent prospectively, which breaks point 5), so the idea that the top half represents different forms of consent is complete bullshit. “Negociated exchange” is basically consent, the rest of the top half represents all the non-consent that impositionists claim as consent.

If we look at this scale, not as any sort of truth, but as a tool to help us understand how impositionists think, then I think this scale can be used as a complement to my list of points. It’s basically a chart version of the impositionist’s rationalization playbook.

For example, consider “custom” as signal of consent. That is an exact description of cultural relativism and how it provides support for customs such as female genital mutilation, suttee, foot-binding and prostitution, to name only those. It is assumed that because it’s “their/our culture,” that the issue of consent is automatically resolved.

Granted, proponents of cultural relativism would not state outright that they think there can be no consent issues. Rather, they would say that we, as outsiders, have no grounds to criticize the practice, but this really amounts to the same thing; we are after all talking about harmful, non-consensual practices, and therefore suppressing criticism about them is the same thing as evacuating consent issues.

The concepts of “standardized exchange” and “consent per past agreements” are often used to justify rape, especially spousal rape. Marriage is supposedly a contract which grants mutual sexual ownership, and therefore spousal rape is seen as just sex. It’s also often argued that past interactions justify sexual demands (you made out with me, so you should let me fuck you).

Likewise, “hypothetical consent” is reflected in many different areas. Take the natalist justification “the vast majority of people are happy, therefore anyone would want to be born.” That’s purely hypothetical, since there’s no way to gauge a state of non-existence: anyone who is happy also exists, and has vested interests in being optimistic. It does not mean that e.g. a hypothetical person in Rawls’ Original Position would always want to come into existence. In fact, it seems more likely (from the antinatalist perspective) that a fully informed person in such a position would decline existence.

* They refuse to quantify the risk of harm.

Impositionists have to ignore the harm their ideology causes because that would mean they are cheering for the perpetrators, not the victims, which is why they have to claim victimhood in any way possible. Statists build up the big bad leftists and Anarchists as their persecutors, capitalists scream about the “entitlement” of poor people, the religious demonize anyone who stands in the way of their pseudo-moral agenda, parents claim to be slaves to their children, and so on.

Related to this fundamental dishonesty is the fact that impositionists refuse to quantify the risk they are willing to impose on others. For instance, I asked anti-abortion and pro-choice advocates to quantify the risk they bring about, and very few even tried. Of course they cannot, for doing so means no longer ignoring the harm their ideology causes.

I admit that asking such a question puts the person between a rock and a hard place: who wants to say they want such and such number of children to die as a result of their cause? But if you have this problem, why do you believe in an ideology that entails the death of children in the first place? Shouldn’t that make you think?

The quantification of risk can, and should, be asked for all ideologies which promote harm. For instance, here’s one that has been asked about pornography:

And a serious question for porn users in general: what’s the maximum percentage of risk you’re willing to accept that the scene you’re getting off to has a performer who was coerced into participating, who couldn’t consent to participating, who was forced to perform acts she was uncomfortable with or explicitly barred, who didn’t consent to the distribution of the material? Give me a number.

But we can make similar questions for everything else, too. In all cases, what we’re trying to find out is: what’s the point where the implementation or fulfillment of the ideology entails just too much harm? And most importantly, how do we determine that point?

That would be the start of any real discussion on the ethicality of harm and risk. But impositionists will not, and probably cannot, have such discussions (feel free to prove me wrong!).

* They treat people as means to an end.

This can be deduced easily from what I’ve said so far. Impositionists see other people, especially their inferiors, as resources to be controlled (non-consensually) by a hierarchy to achieve some level of control over society. Impositionists see harming other people as a tradeoff, that it’s okay to do so in the name of some higher goal, which is really some level of control over society. All of that is very anti-freedom, anti-individual and anti-human.

If there is any ethical principle that should be obvious, clear and basic, it is that we should not treat other human beings as means to an end. It is the most basic form of egalitarianism that one could conceive.

* They all fail the Chomsky Principle.

I’ve discussed before what I call the Chomsky Principle, that we should in principle reject any hierarchical relation or structure unless it’s proven to be justified in some way.

[T]he basic principle I would like to see communicated to people is the idea that every form of authority and domination and hierarchy, every authoritarian structure, has to prove that it’s justified- it has no prior justification. For instance, when you stop your five-year-old kid from trying to cross the street, that’s an authoritarian situation: it’s got to be justified. Well, in that case, I think you can give a justification. But the burden of proof for any exercise of authority is always on the person exercising it- invariably. And when you look, most of the time these authority structures have no justification: they have no moral justification, they have no justification in the interests of the person lower in the hierarchy, or in the interests of other people, or the environment, or the future, or the society, or anything else- they’re just there in order to preserve certain structures of power and domination, and the people at the top.

Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power

The evil-god hypothesis.

From Born Again Pagan (click to enlarge).

Stephen Law has published a paper on theology called the evil-god challenge. Law’s position is that the problem of evil, and the Christians’ assorted theodicies, can be mirrored by the hypothesis that the supreme being is supremely evil instead of supremely good.

This evil-god is subject to the Problem of Good, just as belief in God is subject to the Problem of Evil, and can respond with the exact same theodicies. So for instance you have the free will theodicy, that God created humans with the capacity to do evil in order to let them freely choose good; evil-god likewise created humans with the capacity to do good so they could freely choose evil.

Or take the greater good theodicies. Theologians argue that evil builds character or that evil is necessary for higher-level goods. The evil-god proponent can likewise argue that good provides contrast to the evils of this world, and that good is necessary for higher-level evils.

So the general argument is that the problem of evil, and its attending theodicies, find a perfect symmetry with regards to good and evil. This is a strong argument, so strong that William Lane Craig himself admits its validity:

I suspect that Law thinks that theists will try to deny the symmetry between these two cases. But that would be a mistake. The two situations strike me as symmetrical—I would just say that in neither case would we be justified in thinking that the probability is low. Just as a good Creator/Designer could have good reasons for permitting the suffering in the world, so an evil Creator/Designer could have malicious reasons for allowing the goods in the world, precisely for the reasons Law explains. My initial response, then, still holds: we’re just not in a position to make these kinds of probability judgements with any sort of confidence.

The fact is that Craig, currently the most prominent theologian, nonchalantly admits that he has no way to distinguish between the chance of God existing and the chance of evil-god existing. This is no small slip, but a rather devastating critique of Christianity as issued by its biggest advocate!

However, he does have an objection:

I talked earlier about reasons to think that the Creator/Designer of the universe is good. Suppose we concede for the sake of argument that an evil Creator/Designer exists. Since this being is evil, that implies that he fails to discharge his moral obligations. But where do those come from? How can this evil god have duties to perform which he is violating? Who forbids him to do the wrong things that he does?

But this is asinine. Due to the symmetry, we can ask the exact same questions about God. Where does God’s moral obligation to be good come from? Who forbids God to do evil? It’s mind-boggling to me that Craig asks these questions, because he already knows the answer to those questions: God is inherently good, it’s part of his nature. Likewise, we can reply that evil-god is inherently evil and that it’s part of his nature.

Another counter which comes up often against the evil-god hypothesis is that evil is merely an absence of good, and that therefore there can be no symmetry between good and evil.

To be honest, I have never been able to make sense of this argument. How does one measure “the absence” of good? Every action that we evaluate is an action that exists in itself, not an “absence of” anything. One example is that disease is “an absence of health.” But this only works if you remain at the most abstract level: in reality, any disease is brought about by specific factors and is a presence of something, not an absence.

If we’re validated to talk at such an abstract level that disease is “an absence of health,” then can’t we equally say that health is “an absence of disease”? Actually, that seems to me more reasonable than the reverse. But both are pointless statements.

Another common example used is cold:

“Cold” isn’t a thing. It’s a way of describing the reduction of molecular activity resulting in the sensation of heat. So the more heat we pull out of a system, the colder it gets. Cold itself isn’t being “created.” Cold is a description of a circumstance in which heat is missing. Heat is energy which can be measured. When you remove heat, the temperature goes down. We call that condition “cold,” but there is no cold “stuff” that causes that condition.

While this is true, it does not prove anything about good and evil, which are not forms of energy but ethical concepts. Furthermore, there may be no cold “stuff” but there is also no heat “stuff.” The molecules themselves are not “heat” or “cold.” It is only “stuff” for us because hot and cool are both sensations that happen because of “stuff” such as neural impulses and specific neural circuits for the sensations of heat and cold.

Here is a different criticism:

As I noted earlier, since Law is ambiguous about the specific attributes of an evil God, one has to think he means a God with completely opposing attributes to the broadly traditional monotheistic God: maximally cruel, unjust, selfish, and so on. And as a maximally selfish being, this evil God would have to be exclusively concerned with itself. Not only would it be exclusively concerned with itself, but it would have to be concerned only with itself to the logically maximum degree possible.

The claim being that an infinitely selfish being would never devote itself to anything else, making creation impossible. But this is a bizarre objection: selfishness and altruism are both concepts about the relation between one person and the people in their life. Never mind that God does not fulfill any test of personhood, but no being can be “maximally selfish” by itself any more than a being can be “maximally altruistic” by itself. Likewise, cruelty and injustice are relational (and contradictory) attributes, just like mercy and justice are relational (and contradictory) attributes.

The very concept of a selfish being existing alone is nonsensical: selfishness by its nature is parasitical and needs productive beings to extract surplus value from. Christianity is a great example of a parasitical ideology, because it flourishes on the labor of productive people and gives nothing in return (except for sending the money earned by others to charities, bolstering its own reputation on the back of others).

So the evil-god hypothesis works very well for the problem of evil, but I think we can go a step further and show the symmetry in other theological arguments as well.

Let’s start with the moral argument, since it’s very much related to what I’ve already talked about. According to the moral argument, objective morality can only exist if God exists. Why would God want to create objective morality? Because God is good and wants us to do good, of course. But the same applies to anti-god: anti-god would want to create objective morality because anti-god is evil and wants us to do evil.

What about all the evidence of God, like intelligent design, the universe, and the Bible? An evil-god would leave the same kind of traces of its creative act as God, and given the incredible number of evil acts supposedly sanctioned by God in the Bible, it seems that the Bible is better evidence for evil-god than for God.

There is one final argument I want to discuss because I think it points to an interesting fact. One of the Christian reactions to the evil-god hypothesis is that obviously no one would believe in evil-god, and therefore the argument is moot.

This totally misses the point, in that the fact that no one would believe in evil-god is one of the premises of the evil-god hypothesis. The point is that, if the evil-god hypothesis is just as valid as the God hypothesis, but the evil-god hypothesis is clearly absurd, then the God hypothesis must be just as absurd. So stating that “no one would believe in an evil god!” merely confirms the validity of the evil-god approach. Of course no one would believe in such a thing; so why do people believe in God?

But this brings me to another question: why would no one believe in evil-god? I think that for Christians the term “believe” is equivocated with the word “worship” in a way which simply does not make sense to atheists.

For atheists, to believe something simply means to hold it as a true proposition. To an atheist, the idea that one could believe in evil-god is not particularly incoherent (or at least no more incoherent than the idea of believing in God). But to a Christian, the idea is absurd because no one would want to worship a god that wants you to suffer (never mind that God does it all the time).

So to a Christian, there is there an asymmetry that cannot be refuted. But this (like the “absence of good” argument) relies on a peculiarly Christian form of reasoning, which can only make sense within the faith. Outside of the faith, it can only be described as a sort of semantic disconnection.

Blood worship is pretty creepy.

Blood worship seems to persist even though we’re far from the mass sacrifices of “pre-Columbian” societies or the Igbo (although in both cases their European conquerors killed many more people than sacrifices would have). Granted, we are not yet over human sacrifice, but at least we hide it.

Blood consumption has been part of accusations against perceived enemies. Vampires are one obvious example. There is also blood libel: for centuries Jews were accused of kidnapping gentile children to bake with their blood or kill them to release their blood.

The origin of these accusations, in turn, lies in the belief that Jesus’ blood has special powers. Jesus’ blood “covers” our sins and cleans our conscience. Jesus enjoined his disciples to drink his blood. His blood is part of the ritual of transubstantiation. Catholics are especially interested in Jesus’ heart and blood, to nauseating levels.

The book of Revelation tells us that angels kill so many humans that the resulting blood covers a distance of more than 300 km (something like the distance between New York and Washington). Now imagine all that blood clotting and… yeah.

For a religion that’s supposed to be concerned with the immaterial and the supernatural, the afterlife, the spiritual matters, it seems rather strange for it to be so concerned with something as mundane as blood. Is it merely a prolongation of the Jewish concept of blood sacrifice, or are both the manifestation of some plague monster lying in the collective unconscious?

I have no qualifications in mythology or psychoanalysis, so I will refrain from making such analysis, although perhaps it’s worth noting that the concept of “blood memory” has been associated with the collective unconscious before.

The blood worship of Christianity is creepy, but many other beliefs about blood are creepy. Look how natalists harp on perpetuating the bloodline. Based on this belief, they insist in having children of their own instead of adopting one of the millions of desperate children in the world.

Do they literally believe in the importance of the blood itself? No, I obviously don’t think so, otherwise blood transfusions would be much more opposed than they are today. The bloodline is a metaphor for the extension of the self into one’s children, grandchildren, and so on. The parent is, in the sense of extension, the “consumer” of the blood, the life-force of the child: the life (and death, in those cases where a child dies) of the child glorifies the parent. That’s much creepier than any blood consumption.

From the consumption/extension end, we go to the complete opposite when we look at menstruation, which for millennia has been used as a reason to subjugate women. The Bible tells us that a menstruating woman is “unclean”:

Leviticus 15:19-24
And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean. And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And if it be on her bed, or on any thing whereon she sitteth, when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even. And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean.

Leviticus 15:28-30
But if she be cleansed of her issue, then she shall number to herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean. And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtles, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for her before the LORD for the issue of her uncleanness.

So when women issue blood, it’s considered a sign of their unclean nature. But when Jesus does it, it’s a fucking sacrament. Go figure.

Oh, the subjectivism of it all…

From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Subjectivism is a topic I used to talk a great deal about when I was writing about Christianity. Fundamentalist Christians typically claim to have an absolute moral system, an absolute authority, to have all the answers written black on white in the Bible, and so on. But the more you argue with them, the more their arguments plunge into relativism and subjectivism.

I don’t like using the words “objectivism” and “subjectivism” because they are used in many conflicting ways, so I want to clarify exactly what I mean by “subjectivism”: what I mean is any belief which attempts to justify a fact of reality by appealing to personal experience, like feelings or the imagination. If it ceases to exist once you stop experiencing it, it’s subjective (or as Philip K. Dick once said, reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away).

Or in simpler terms, your reasoning is subjective if you’re trying to argue that what’s in your head somehow changes the nature of reality. You may have a strong belief that you can fly with the power of thought, but you can’t actually do it. No belief should be held without some kind of evidence.

So for instance, when you ask Christians how they justify their beliefs, eventually you reach the bedrock of “I just feel like God is operating in my life” or “I have faith in the Bible as the Word of God.” There is no intellectual foundation of Christianity, only feelings and imagination. People don’t become Christians because of a scientific discovery or a logical argument.

Logical Christian arguments are marshaled in the defense of faith, not out of any search for truth. We can see this because the logical arguments used are extremely general and cannot possibly demonstrate what they are supposed to prove (e.g. the argument from design only proves that a designer exists; whatever that designer is cannot be deduced from the argument). Facts (and non-facts) are deployed in the service of feeling.

The same thing happens when you examine Biblical morality. When you start questioning rules from the Bible, you inevitably get the answer that those rules only applied to those people at that time. It takes very little effort to turn a supposed Christian absolutist into a Christian relativist: all you have to do is start asking hard questions.

Liberal feminism is also subjectivist. The main difference is that, while religion is only subjectivist when you question it, they’re subjectivist from the get-go. There is no veneer of reality there at all.

Meghan Murphy wrote an article about the most common rebuttals presented by proponents of burlesque, but her list applies equally well to any other feminist issue (prostitution, pornography, rape, BDSM, gender identity):

1) You haven’t done enough “research”
2) You don’t understand
3) Anything I do that makes ME feel good is feminist!
4) But there are women in the audience! Women erase sexism!
5) Boylesque [“men do it too”]
6) Different body types in burlesque = feminism
7) If you don’t like burlesque then don’t go to burlesque shows
8) You are turning me into an object by talking about the objectification of women
9) I’m not being objectified because I choose to objectify myself
10) You have to be on the inside to understand/form a valid critique
11) You’re a prude and you hate boobs

So there are two categories of arguments here, ones that are just plain subjectivism (3, 4, 5, 8, 9), ones that claim that the critic is just not good enough (1, 2, 7, 10, 11), and arguments that are just factually wrong (6).

I would classify the second category of arguments as being subjective in nature also; whether a critic doesn’t “get it” from your perspective, doesn’t like something, or is a prude, does not objectively make them wrong. In essence, the argument is that the evidence that the critic is wrong about burlesque is that the critic doesn’t like burlesque, but there is no connection between not liking something and being wrong about it. I don’t like murder but that doesn’t mean I must therefore be wrong in believing that murder is wrong.

If you come back to the subjective arguments, you see their nature very easily. Take for example rebuttal 3, “anything I do that makes ME feel good is feminist.” If you don’t debate feminist issues at all, this may seem like a straw man, but the fact is that if you go on Meghan Murphy’s blog and look at the comments, or any other feminist blog that talks about feminist issues, you will find that argument used regularly.

So you get people who complain that they like doing whatever and you can’t tell them what to do. But feminism doesn’t tell people what to do. The point of feminism is to make a systemic analysis of existing institutions and understand how they sustain the Patriarchy, not to tell individual women what they should or shouldn’t wear, what they should or shouldn’t do, and so on.

But my point here is that an argument like “anything I do that makes ME feel good is feminist” is subjective because it states that a person’s feelings determine reality. What is or is not feminist is a fact of reality, and therefore has nothing to do with anyone’s feelings.

Rebuttal 9 is another good example. The concept of “choice” is used constantly to justify the exploitation of women. At a superficial level, it’s a case of blaming the victim: they “chose” to be exploited or oppressed, so it’s their own damn fault. This liberal position must be absolutely rejected.

The other problem is that this concept of “choice” adds absolutely nothing to the argument; at best it can only mean that you believe you are in control of a situation. So even in that best case scenario all that’s being said is “I’m not being objectified because I believe I am in control of my own objectification.” So what? Again, you are free to believe you are capable of doing anything, but without any actual evidence, we’re not having a discussion about facts.

The other problem is that it’s not in fact true that we are in control of our own objectification, simply because we have a limited control over what other people think. Yes, obviously we can change how we present ourselves and that will change other people’s opinion of us, but that’s not gonna stop objectification within a given institution.

Take burlesque, for example. You can say it’s “ironically sexist” or “an affirmation of different bodies” or “art” or whatever, but what men see when they go there is a woman taking off her clothes. The objective you pursue when you take off your clothes does not change the objectification. So maybe you enjoy it, or you’re helping other women come to terms with their bodies, and that’s fine, but the objectification does not go away because these other things are also happening.

Oppression does not depend on you accepting it as oppression; in fact, the rulers are much better off if you refuse to accept that you’re being oppressed, or if you completely misidentify who’s oppressing you. They love it if they can get you to fight, well, pretty much anyone but them.

To me the most puzzling thing is that not only is the subjectivism front and center, but they seem even proud of it. In any other area of thought we’d consider this bizarre and irrational, but this doesn’t seem to even enter their minds. I can’t say why that is. I don’t think liberal feminism is particular irrational compared to, say, Creationism or Neo-Nazism or whatever. And yet I would guess that few Creationists or Neo-Nazis would brag about how subjectivist they are; people generally believe that their beliefs are generally factual (whether they are correct or not is another matter).

The concept of “empowerment” puts us through the same mental gymnastics. People do not use the word “empowered” to designate that a person has gained, you know, actual power: they use it to mean that a person believes that they have more power. Evidence for having been “empowered” does not consist of looking at actual power but rather of looking at how the person feels.

This leads to laughable statements like “stripping for men is empowering” or “beauty is empowering.” It may feel good for a woman to strip or be beautiful, but it does not in itself confer any power. Only looking at actual power relations can tell you whether an act is empowering.

Or an even simpler test: do men in positions of power do it? I know this is not a novel idea, but it works. Do the Koch Brothers strip? Does George Soros strip? Do they put on makeup every day? If not, what connection can there be between these things and power?

If anything, beauty is disempowering. This entry from Meghan Murphy discusses how the beauty mandate is used to attack both the women following it and feminism:

Beauty is not power. As evidenced by patriarchy. Pretty ladies continue to be exposed to sexism on a daily basis despite their “freedom” to “showcase their beauty.” In other words, if beauty were power then women would have real power in this world and would no longer be marginalized based on the fact that they happen to have been born female.

The myth that “beauty is power” is actually super destructive because it tricks young women into thinking that if men want them, they will be empowered, which is, alas, not true. Because the kind of “power” that comes from having men lust after you is fleeting and holds no real weight in the grand scheme of things. It might make you feel good momentarily, until you realize that men don’t respect you because they like your boobs, nor will your fuckability bring things like political power and freedom from male violence. As long as women are seen as (and see themselves as) pretty, sexy objects, they will continue to to be viewed and treated, primarily, as sex-holes for men (i.e. not full human beings but the kind of beings who were invented for men to use and abuse and play with and then discard when they get bored).

Also, friendly reminder that real “power” doesn’t run out when you turn forty. Men don’t suddenly become invisible and irrelevant when they reach middle age and that’s because they haven’t bought into or been fed the ridiculous myth that their power lies in their ability to be youthful and have a perky butt. Society treats older women as invisible and younger women as objects. That’s not power.

Gender atheism is the next misunderstood idea…

Radical rejections of established ideologies are always misunderstood and misinterpreted to some extent. Atheism, as a radical rejection of religion, is still a misunderstood idea, although its status is being somewhat mitigated by a rather strongly held party line and increasingly visible popularization.

Anarchism, on the other hand, has been going in the reverse direction. From its heyday in the 1890s, its defeat in the Russian Revolution, and its concrete if brief expressions during the 20th century, it has been vilified at an ever-increasing pace until present time. Nowadays the public understanding of anarchism is pretty much worse than non-existent.

With the Internet resurgence of radical feminism and anti-genderism arises the reframing of “gender atheism.” As I’ve argued before, it is one that I support as well. It may not be elegant, but it drags down genderism from its untouchable status to the status of being as irrational as religion, and points out that gender atheism is as reasonable and rational as, well, atheism.

Unfortunately, gender atheism piggybacks on atheism but inherits the misunderstandings of atheism as well. I believe that as gender atheism becomes more well known, it will go through the same phase of misunderstanding, with little relief in sight. Already the genderists are declaring agender and gender atheism as kinds of gender, in the same way that atheism has been declared a competing (and therefore inadequate) religion to Christianity.

The other misrepresentations of atheism are also more and more frequently popping up in discussions about gender. We’re seeing arguments about how the individual’s feelings (e.g. “gender identity”) are more important than facts. We’re seeing arguments that anti-genderists are depraved (e.g. anti-Christian) or bigots (e.g. “transphobic”) who don’t respect other people’s beliefs. We’re seeing the pseudo-scientific arguments (evolutionary psychology, innate gender) and the attempts to legislate their beliefs.

God is bullshit, and so is gender. But genderism and religion are both totalizing belief systems: they are supposed to encompass all possibilities and human thought is supposed to exist entirely within their framework. These belief systems are especially dangerous because they are harder to escape; their totalizing nature reduces doubt to some aspect of themselves. Traditionally, to reject one’s gender roles has meant to reject God’s laws, so both have been intricately connected.

All religions have liberal and fundamentalist branches. Genderism has its fundamentalist branch (traditional genderism) which exploits people’s sense of duty and tradition, and its liberal branch (trans genderism) which exploits people’s desire to tolerate and be compassionate. In that particular way, it works like any other religion.

Atheism is a lack of belief in God. Gender atheism is similarly a lack of belief in gender. Atheists see God as a social construct used to manipulate and exploit people; gender atheists likewise see gender as a social construct used to manipulate and exploit people. Gender atheists are angry at the damage that genderism inflicts on human societies and are interested in freeing children from the indoctrination of gender, which is based on fantasy instead of reality.

There is no gender atheist organization (to my knowledge) and such an organization is unlikely to arise in the near future. So there are obvious limits to the comparison. But the basic principle is that both are a form of liberation- liberation from indoctrinated dogma, liberation from pointless obligations, and ultimately freedom to think beyond what’s proscribed.

Unfortunately I don’t think there is much of a future in gender atheism. In the area of gender, we are more or less living in the equivalent of the Reformation, and, if the historical analogy holds true, we’ve got a long ways to go before gender atheism is even on the radar. But insofar as there is some developing consciousness about it, I think it will go through the same misrepresentations than atheism has gone through. So that’s something to look forward to.

Compartmentalization: how we entrap our own minds.

Atheists talk a great deal about compartmentalization from the standpoint of looking at religion and its absurdities. We look at a religious person and how they can, in one breath, profess belief in the most horrible, irrational moral precepts on the basis of the Bible, and in the next, proclaim their respect for other people. We observe that they seem to insulate their religious beliefs from disproof by putting them in a box and, by doing so, keeping them scrupulously separate from their other, more rational beliefs. So we call that “compartmentalization.”

Stephen Jay Gould’s framing of the relationship between science and religion as “non-overlapping magisteria” represents an attempt at intellectually justifying compartmentalization. Such attempts must necessarily fail in practice, because science and religion are necessarily overlapping: if science does not address origins and the nature of things, then it cannot operate on measurable material facts, and if religion does not address measurable material facts, then it is myth, not religion.

But there’s a lot more to compartmentalization than just putting some irrational beliefs in a box. Not only does it do that, but it also becomes an impervious springboard by which one’s non-material or non-rational beliefs can be applied to material, rational reality without fear of refutation.

It is not just that the Christian fundamentalist believes that women, homosexuals and black people are inherently inferior, and that ey puts these beliefs in a box. It is also that ey uses these beliefs to talk about the real world and to attack real people in real ways. Christianity is a political issue, a social issue, an intellectual issue, an ethical issue, because Christian fundamentalists use their bigotry as an argument and as a motivation in the world, against the world (“the world” is evil, God’s laws are good).

The same thing applies to beliefs about matters of fact. Creationists have one set of epistemic standards that apply to the question of the development of life on this planet, and another set of epistemic standards that apply to everything else, and never the twain shall meet. But they then take those Creationist standards and use them to attack education, evolutionary science, materialist answers about human nature, and so on.

The fact that these beliefs are in the box means that they are elevated to a special status amongst that person’s beliefs: beliefs which inform our actions but which are considered to be immune from refutation. So they necessarily become of prime importance.

Obviously, compartmentalization does not only apply to religion, but I have never heard of this sort of analysis done on anything other than religion. In Compartmentalizing women means you’re a sociopath, blogger Elkballet delves into the issue of compartmentalization and how it applies to porn use.

Her analysis can be applied to any area where irrational beliefs are protected from refutation. In all cases, our million dollar question is: given that our starting position is one of not wanting to harm others and of respecting fairness, how does a person grow up to become a soldier, a rapist, a fundamentalist Christian, or in this case a regular porn user?

Because if the user didn’t compartmentalize it away from rational thought, hide it in a special place in his brain where critical thinking couldn’t touch it, there’s no way he could justify his enjoyment of something clearly painful, degrading, and humiliating. He couldn’t justify enjoying something where this is a high likelihood that at least sometimes the woman is really being raped, is a trafficked woman. So because it feels good, it gets put away someplace where those thoughts can’t apply to it. It would not be possible to enjoy porn as it exists today were it not for the “ability” to place it behind special logic-proof walls.

Elkballet deduces from her examination of the psychology of compartmentalization that this process is the natural result of our enjoyment clashing with one’s natural morals.

But how does this apply to religion or statism? In those cases, we’re not talking about enjoyment but conditioning; the case of pornography merely adds a step before the conditioning. People are hooked on pornography and then receive its messages, while people generally start by receiving religious dogma (whether they come to enjoy it later is another issue). No one is forced to watch pornography by their parents or by society (although the sexist message itself is present everywhere and can hardly be avoided).

So in those cases it is the dogma that clashes with our natural morals. Every case has a different form of rationalization, different default responses, different thought-stoppers, but they all have them.

* In the case of Christian believers, we have “God is good itself and the source of all good,” “God knows better than we do,” “God works in mysterious ways,” “Christian morality is absolute and necessary anyway.”

* In the case of statists, we have “they’re just bad apples,” “the law maintains order in society,” “if you’re not evil you have nothing to fear,” and as a corollary, “if you have something to fear, you must be evil.”

* In the case of natalism, we have “well, life is not fair,” “new people can experience all that’s wonderful in this world,” and “I have the right to have children.”

* In the case of feminism, we have individualism and liberalism acting as general rationalizations (“it’s her fault for putting herself at risk,” “we’re all equal now so everything that happens to you is your own fault”), and evopsych and other forms of gender essentialism act as thought-stoppers (“men can’t help what they do, so there’s no point in arguing about it,” “that’s the way women should be”).

Elkballet also discusses how compartmentalization piggybacks on existing hierarchies in order to dissociate between “good” and “bad” people or situations.

Compartmentalization.. causes the user to feel entitled to label women as human or not, real people or things to fuck, etc… Only a person in a position of entitlement could experience this type of god complex, deciding who is and isn’t human, who does and doesn’t deserve abuse based on whether she turns him on… This means some people actually begin to feel some woman (all of whom are thinking, breathing, feeling, human beings) deserve to be raped, deserve to be beaten, tortured, murdered, etc… Because this user has learned to compartmentalize. When something revolting happens to a woman, she can be compartmentalized away as a “disgusting pig” or a deserving “slut” because porn has taught him that some women deserve this treatment. Some women are born for this, to be fucked brutally, to be raped.

In parallel with this, the porn user also feels that he is one of the “good” guys, that he is sublimating his (inescapable and biological, according to the rhetoric) desire to hurt women through something “unreal” (because otherwise he would be painting himself as someone who derives enjoyment from someone else’s suffering), and that it’s okay because everyone’s doing it or everyone should be doing it.

All compartmentalization partakes of these same processes. Again let me review:

* Christian believers divide people in saved and unsaved; the unsaved (unlike actual humans) deserve eternal torment, and they deserve to be persecuted in life. The unsaved are not worthy of being treated like human beings because they can’t be moral anyway.

* Statists divide people in criminals and non-criminals, citizens and foreigners, “legal” humans and “illegal” humans, productive and unproductive people (in a capitalist context), and so on. Criminals deserve punishment by virtue of not obeying the law, foreigners deserve to die because they aren’t protected by the law, “illegal” humans deserve to be separated from their families, unproductive people deserve to be poor. Generally the rationalization here is that people who don’t obey the law are innately evil (and usually that most or all people are evil and deserve to be punished) and that morality can only be maintained by government fiat.

* Most natalists hold to categories of “lives that are worth starting” and “lives that are not worth starting” (although some extremists do believe that all lives, no matter how diseased or handicapped, are worth starting), and use this to “prove” that most acts of procreation are justified. This is not hierarchical in nature, but the hierarchy between parents and children is used to justify the “right to reproduce” and props up other natalist arguments (“I don’t care what the consequences are to my child because I decide what’s good for them”).

* Anti-feminists obviously support the gender hierarchy, and they support their belief in the gender hierarchy through various forms of essentialism, that women deserve to be inferior because of some biological or psychological defect. The flipside of that is the fact that women deserve to be raped, mutilated and killed because men’s equally unwavering attributes (“men can’t control themselves,” “men are biologically made to rape”).

She also talks about this concept of “good porn.” Porn users regularly trot out the bizarre concept of “feminist porn” (which has been sighted about as often as Bigfoot, another mythical creature) as some kind of proof that pornography is not woman-hating. They argue that if only all porn was replaced by “feminist porn,” pornography would be all right.

But feminists know that this is nonsense. Pornography is inherently objectifying and violent whether it’s “feminist” or not. An evil system is not improved by giving it even more credibility while addressing no issue whatsoever. Putting women in charge of pornography and changing the actresses so that some of them are fat or black doesn’t address anything that’s wrong about pornography, but calling it “feminist” does give it credibility it does not deserve.

Likewise, radicals in all other areas are very well aware that gradualism or moderation is ultimately futile. Trying to encourage a government to moderate its military spending has never actually lowered military spending. Telling Christians to moderate their beliefs does not get them to do so. Telling people to make less children rarely has a positive effect.

What does work is changing the incentives of society itself. Religion becomes more moderate because it is dragged along by social consensus. Governments only channel more resources towards welfare programs, and stop attacking the rights of the poor, when people stand up for their rights and take to the streets. As for not having children, people having a livelihood that doesn’t depend on using children as virtual slave workers thanks to industrialization seems to be helping quite a bit, and so does working against domestic violence.

Another example of moderation, as regards to neo-liberalism this time, is the belief in “responsible consumption”; the theory being that by moderating our consumption, by consuming the right things, and by recycling our consumed products, we can help the environment and stop exploiting people in the third world. But we know that would change absolutely nothing. Most of the pollution is generated by industries, not by landfills. Moderating consumption will not slow down the economic growth in China and India, which will dwarf any slowing down of consumption in the Western world.

The gender hierarchy provides porn users with the tools to objectify and categorize women, because the belief in the inferiority of women comes with its own rationalizations and categories (such as “sluts,” “bitches,” “dykes,” etc). These categories are filled with beliefs which further the aim of the porn user (“sluts can’t be raped,” “unlike most women they really love doing this,” “sluts deserve to be roughed up”). Compartmentalization leads to objectification leads to a culture of violence and depravity.


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