Which are you? Liberator or oppressor?

We in Western democracies value our freedoms highly; people have died to secure them, people have died defending them. We cry foul when one sovereign nation impinges on the democratic process of another, nations have gone to war to defend the freedoms of others, populations have risen up against their oppressors. Though many rarely use their right to vote, hard-fought and dearly won, they denounce any attempt to curtail it. We pretty much all agree that people are free to do whatever they want to their bodies, they have an inalienable right to personal freedom – we are all born free and equal in dignity and rights. Wear what you want, do what you want with your hair, get tattoos, augment your body, join a political movement, join a socially accepted sky-god cult, take drugs, binge-watch Game of Thrones, engage in relationships with consenting adults… Okay, some of these we are still working on, but you get my drift.

You agree that, in a civilized society, we are all free think as we wish and that in a truly free society our bodies belong to ourselves? You agree that for any organisation to interfere in your inalienable right to your individual sovereignty is tantamount to tyranny? You affirm the inviolable autonomy of the individual, and that the abrogation of this autonomy is a crime which should be immediately repudiated? Great! So you are Pro-Choice. Carry on about your day, support your local movement to defend this freedom (the Irish Repeal the 8th movement and the increasingly necessary defence of the Roe vs Wade in the US come to mind).

No? You disagree? You are “Pro-Life”? Fair enough, you have the right to your opinion. Just one thing:

Your opinion is wrong.

You have every right to your opinion, but it is wrong. I acknowledge you have the right to your opinion, but you are wrong. I wholeheartedly endorse the democratic ideal behind the fact that you can voice your opinion, but you are still wrong. Intrinsically, cosmically wrong. Denying half the human race the same autonomy enjoyed by the other half is unjust and wrong. There is no argument you can make to deny this. You cannot surmount this gross violation of human rights.

To be “Pro-Life” is to be pro-oppression. To be “Pro-Life” is to say that you possess the right to determine the use  of someone else’s body. To be “Pro-Life” is to deny freedom to half the species. To be “Pro-Life” is to be on the wrong side of history with patriarchal religions and imperial oppressors. To be “Pro-Life” is to say that women are equal, except when they are chattel. To be “Pro-Life” is to be on the wrong side of humanity itself. To be “Pro-Life” is to say, “I know better. Listen hear, girly, you don’t know what’s good for you, but I do”. Who  thinks so little of women that they deem them incapable of independent thought, of coming to a decision by themselves, of weighing the consequences, socially, mentally, and emotionally? Who would deny another human a freedom, the freedom to their own body, that they themselves enjoy? A misogynist, a tyrant.

I am not going to debate the ins and outs of the issue, it has all been said before, I really don’t think another male voice is going to suddenly bring the “Pro-Life” folk an epiphany. And, I have to admit, another version of this essay exists where I thought I was being helpful, but it came out all wrong. It was, to my shame, paternalistic (at best), a kind of sexism from the other end of the spectrum. I hit on some of the key points, but I lost the signal in the noise. Luckily, I have a good friend who gave me a (metaphoric) kick in the arse. I know that I am most likely speaking to people who already agree, but, who knows, one person who sits on the fence might come this way and find their reality suitably readjusted.

As the law in Ireland currently stands, it denies women the right to choose what to do with their own bodies, a fact that runs contrary to the very idea of democratic equality and puts their very lives at risk. Indeed, the right to individual autonomy is under attack in many societies which claim to be free. There is an increasing call to reform the situation in Ireland, which will require a referendum.

And here, in the exercise of making law, opinions come into play, which is to the deficit of the argument. There is no opinion in this debate. There is Right and Wrong. Not my opinion of what I think is right versus your opinion of what you think is right. Half the population is not being treated as free, equal, and sovereign. There is no type of oppression that is kinda okay, it’s not great but hey, it’s not the worst. From revolutionaries who rose against colonial overlords to slaves revolting against masters, one truth rings through the ages: you are free or you are not. Women, as the law stands in many nations, are not truly free. You either agree with the status quo or you don’t. You are either Pro-Tyranny or Pro-Freedom. The other arguments are window-dressing on this very simple premise.

So. Which are you? Liberator or oppressor?


#RepealThe8th

Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment

@repealeight

Abortion Rights Campaign

@freesafelegal

Comparative Contexts: From Stars, to Humans, to Faith

No human has lived long enough to witness the life-cycle of a star, and yet we know how stars are created, how they persist, how they degrade, how they die. There are two main reasons for this: we know the basic rules that govern their lives (i.e., physics) and we have a tremendous sample size. We understand the principles of atomic fusion, the power of gravity, the inevitability of entropy. We can look up and see stars at every possible stage of development across a variety of compositions, from gaseous nebulae to black holes and supernovae.

Just like how we have a broad understanding of the fundamental forces that underlie the life-cycle of stars, we have a sense of how the human mind works. We know that humans are susceptible to suggestion, are easily misled, how ideas can be reinforced through repetition, and how we rarely question the status quo. The psychology of humans is one designed to defer to authority in youth, bad at breaking habits later in life, and often resolute in erroneous belief near the end. Children are predisposed to listen to their parents as part of the survival instinct, otherwise they might die. Habits formed in youth are extremely hard to break, and humans have a great habit of forming and maintaining habits; it’s basically a mental shortcut we’ve evolved to save time. And old people, after a lifetime of such reinforcements, are often implacable in their ideas no matter how illogical (think of the stereotypical racist grandfather or the grandmother who has boiled potatoes with pizza, because it isn’t dinner without potatoes).

Now, I agree, these are broad generalisations, but we do have a remarkably large sample size; there are, and have been, literally billions of humans, not unlike stars. Even if an alien took a single snapshot of humanity, there are so many of us from so many varied backgrounds that they could arrive at a reasonable hypothesis as to how we are conceived, born, live, and die; they could note the similarities and differences in our cultures; they could see some interesting disparities in wealth and status across gender and race. Basically, we do not have to witness the full lifespan of an object or concept to understand its underlying principles if we have sufficient evidence from various stages of development.

Now, because we have such a large sample size and a basic understanding of humans, in addition to the whole of human history and endeavours, we can draw some interesting conclusions concerning faith and religion.

If we look across the gamut of humanity, we can see a life-cycle of sorts for religion and faith. Taking a snapshot of the world as it stands today, we can see primitive cultures (I do not use this term in a pejorative sense, I simply mean societies which are not considered technologically or organisationally advanced, or what anthropologists refer to as Traditional Cultures) which have ‘rudimentary’ supernatural beliefs revolving around ill-understood natural forces, spirits, or totems, whereas more ‘advanced’ societies have complex religions with elaborate rituals and hierarchies of celestial beings. Through history, we can examine the development of, for example, Judaism from polytheism to monotheism, or how Christianity and Islam picked up ideas from paganism and Zoroastrianism. We can see how faith was born of ignorance and awe of the natural world, how, as cities and hierarchical societies emerged, more hierarchical religions developed alongside to minister to the nascent societies. We have religions born in the full light of history, like the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormonism) and the so-called ‘cargo cults’, which offer fascinating insights into how religions begin and develop. This is not new information. It seems patently obvious that faith and religions were born of human imagination, like love and hate, art, Doctor Who, and unicorns. Over time, these invented and inventive notions were clarified and codified, laying the foundations for religions. Elaborate stories were told to explain the nature of reality and humanity’s position in it, and came to be understood as ‘true’. Generations of reinforcement and the stifling of free thought led to the situation where to think that these ‘truths’ were just stories was anathema, ridiculous, a challenge to the status quo.

Then there arrived on the scene the modern disciplines of academic History, Archaeology, Science, Philosophy, Anthropology, and Literary Criticism (I say ‘modern’ here, as many disciplines had a strong religio-imperialist spin until very recently, a spin which disappointingly persists in some quarters) which started asking questions and some people got a bit annoyed and started saying that the ‘truths’ they hold can’t be academically analysed. But they can. And they have been. I’ve met Catholics who scoff at Mormons and their recasting of the great journey westward to Utah in the Mosaic tradition, but these same Catholics affirm the reality of the ‘true’ exodus of Moses (for which there is no evidence). The fact of the matter is that both stories clearly demonstrate how people mythologise their own religious past. Islam grafted in the daily prayer routine of Zoroastrianism and the veneration of the pagan Ka’aba. Christian notions of the essentiality and holiness of virginity are drawn from Roman legal demands for ensuring paternity and pagan custom. And, of course, there is the well-trod path of comparisons between the Christian myth and various Egyptian mystery cults, the cults of Mithras and Sol Invictus, and various Graeco-Roman mystery cults which I will not explore here. When you get to the heart of it, many core traditions (or ‘unique selling factors’ if we think of religions as competing marketing brands) of many religions are actually fairly common myths recycled into new narratives.

It is clear, then, that belief in the divine is a human construct. There is always the cry of the religious that Science can’t explain everything, which of course it can’t, and that the God of the Gaps still leaves a space for God. And there is the argument that Faith and Science occupy non-overlapping magisteria, which seems to placate some, bit it is still a platitude, and not a very helpful one at that. The gap that Science can’t fill, the Humanities do. Science drives forward with explaining material reality, investigating everything from strings to stars, and the Humanities give it meaning, and then interrogate that meaning, and then interrogate the validity of that interrogation and its meaning. The magisteria of religion is based on a false premise, and its area of inquiry is better left to Philosophy. Logic might drive the Sciences, but Reason leads the Humanities; Evidence is the foundation to both. Faith and religion are easily explicable frameworks within the context of human development; they arose from fear and awe and became enmeshed in value systems and societal structures. The religious have convinced us that faith is the foundation of a just society when it is, at best, an impediment and, at worst, a corruption. The sheer number of competing faiths and structures of belief, from animism to polytheism to monotheism and all the factions within, do not demonstrate the existence of a divine force, but rather serve as evidence of human inventiveness and susceptibility to belief.

Just as we no longer believe that the stars are the super-celestial fires burning through the celestial sphere, just as we no longer believe that the mind and body are governed by four humours, we must cast aside the unhelpful burden of faith in the divine. We ought to at least put it in its proper place, not prioritising it and its adherents’ beliefs over all other considerations. Once you have seen that it is only shadows that dance on the cave wall, you can never go back. The world outside the cave is full of beauty and wonder. There’s horror and sorrow too, but even that is better than the lie perpetuated by religion; false hope in an afterlife is little encouragement to make positive change in the real world, while sober and rational confrontation with the ills of humankind yield tangible results. It’s about time we stopped wasting energy on Iron Age cults gone viral and effect real change in the world.

A Tale of Two Catholicisms

Living as I now do in the UK, I have noticed that religious people here are very different from religious people from my homeland of Ireland. The various forms of Christians I meet here seem to have a very positive perspective on their chosen faiths, even the Catholics. This has puzzled me for a while, but I think it is down to two primary factors. But first, you may be wondering why I am puzzled. It rests in the fact that these people are around my age and are true believers, and I would normally expect people my age and younger to be more tepid in their faith, if not agnostic or atheist.

I grew up in Catholic Ireland. I grew up watching bishops and priests tell people how to think on TV and from the pulpit, not just in matters of faith but on issues of social mores and politics. The Troubles in Northern Ireland were cast as Catholic versus Protestant, as indeed was much of the history of Ireland we learned in school. One might think this would only serve to inculcate a distrust of non-Catholics, but I was always puzzled, baffled by how ‘their’ God was different to ‘our’ God, when it was all basically the same God. We were never really taught why we should believe or the benefits of belief, only that we should and the other side was wrong. I was fairly agnostic at a young age; I liked Jesus, he seemed like a decent sort, but the whole magic thing never really grabbed me.

By the time I arrived in university, I was an atheist, and then the scandals began to hit. The Catholic Church was revealed to be home to paedophiles and rapists, abusers and colluders. And, as I became more aware of such things, I discovered how the Church had oppressed and abused women for generations, stolen children, and generally impeded freedoms. The power of the men of God was shaken and the number of non-believers in Ireland has been rising ever since. And many of my friends think that my atheism stems from this, but I was already a non-believer when the toxic nature of the Catholic Church in Ireland was finally revealed. The revelation of the depths of the corruption within the Catholic Church only reaffirmed my distaste of organised religion.

Religion appears to be a very different thing in the UK. You can imagine my surprise, given the above, when I discovered that young people here seem to willingly join, and participate in, organised religion, even Catholicism. Now, I do live in one of the more believer-filled corners of the British isle, so this may not apply everywhere, but it is weird to me how often I am invited to church or bible study groups. People chat with their priests, ministers are involved in public projects; I have spoken to clerics more often in my brief few years in England than ever in my life in Ireland. Part of the enthusiasm for faith may be that my friends are often converts, and no one is more faithful than a convert. But why convert?

It quickly dawned on me that market forces were at work. And deceit. Well, maybe not outright deceit, but definitely obfuscation. Organised religion in the UK comes in many brands and each one has to compete for attention. They each emphasise their unique selling points and actively nurture their communities. In Ireland, the Catholic Church basically had a monopoly; it could do whatever it wanted and still retain its dominant market position. It didn’t have to work in Ireland as it had already cornered the market, but in the UK it had to appeal to each new generation otherwise it would lose its market share to a competitor. Each religion appears to have adopted an open, friendly, welcoming attitude that is utterly alien to me, raised in the holier-than-thou, don’t speak until you are spoken to, do as we say not as we do approach of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Oh, and yes, they seem to gloss over all the abuse and inherent sexism. It really seems to me that English Catholics happily ignore this very real problem which cuts to the heart of Catholicism, how an organisation which claims to act on behalf of God on Earth could routinely abuse women and children for generations, avoid and confound any legal repercussions, and yet still claim to have paramount moral authority. The systemic corruption and abuse is dismissed as ‘a few bad eggs’, or, to put it in more modern terms, ‘hashtag: not all Catholics’. It’s disappointing. It’s disgusting. It’s delusional. But then again, it’s not too much of leap when your core religious text advocates child sacrifice, whoring out your daughters, incest, genocide, slavery, and all kinds of intolerance. Sure, organised religion does good things too, but I don’t think the scales are tipped the way they would like us to think, and I don’t think they have made due compensation for all their sins.

I think I get the appeal of faith: it is some kind of egotistical or egocentric comfort to people to believe in a guiding force, a divinity that places you at the centre of the universe. I can even see the logic behind religion: I believe in X and I want to hang out with other people who believe X, especially if we are persecuted. That’s fine. I like educators, I love talking to teachers and academics; I like comics and movies and books, I am part of a book club and go to the cinema with friends. I understand the appeal of sharing an experience or outlook. But, to the best of my knowledge, there has been no systemic collusion to hide paedophiles or subjugate women in the groups I attend.

Maybe I would have a more positive view of organised religion if had grown up in a more secular nation, but I suspect I would still have my suspicions. Whenever a religion is in charge, it leads inevitably to corruption, but theocracy has a peculiar kind of corruption that is absolute as it claims a mandate from heaven. It just becomes another form of absolutism, just another stick to beat people with. Competition is good; it drives a brand to refine its message, to create the best possible product for the market, whereas a monopoly leads to stagnation. So, secularism might be good for religion, it might even help it strive to be the best form of itself to win more converts. But, of course, so many competing brands only reveal the intrinsic flaw in any organised religion’s claim to be the indisputable font and arbiter of Truth: they aren’t. The plethora of competing claims may be contributing to the fact that atheism and non-belief are on the rise as these assertions of ownership of the ‘Truth’ are comically numerous and claim to be mutually exclusive.

In any event, I think I am just surprised that intelligent, worldly, and aware people would willingly give themselves over to religion. I am of the opinion that the more you learn and the more you see of the world, the more you ought to realise how chains of faith are forged, and that you can break free of them. I am also deeply concerned by friends who appear good and moral, but tacitly condemn vast swathes of humanity to Hell because they believe in a different version of a divine motive force (and they have a special corner for those who don’t believe in such things).

Some people grow up in certain cultural or familial contexts which reinforce their faiths and religion offers them a sense of place. My friends who have converted seem to have endured a difficult period in their lives and then ‘found God’, and here again the sense of community may be appealing. I can understand the desire to belong to a community, but I don’t understand the willingness to join organisations that believe that humans are inherently sinful, that we have little or limited agency in the universe, that human rights are not universal and paramount, that women should be subservient in reality while offering the empty platitude that they are equal in spirit, that a ‘good’ and ‘loving’ god purposefully makes your life arduous to prove to him that your faith in him is true (those last two really rather twisted when you think about it). And all of these issues arise before we even begin to talk about the non-existence of gods. Maybe that first sip of Kool-Aid helps you forget the structural misogyny, centuries of repression, focus on guilt and sin, condemnation of natural aspects of human biology and character, and flaws in logic and reason. I understand the appeal of religion, but the fact that so many adherents can so quickly gloss over the intrinsic flaws is deeply upsetting. My concerns have been dismissed by my faithful friends because I don’t understand that faith is the important thing, that I focus too much on the material world where it is the spiritual that matters. Well, forgive me for saying, but it’s in the real world that priests fucked children and got away with it for decades, nuns tore babies from their mothers and gave them away without consent, Christian clerics advocated the Atlantic slave trade, women are denied basic human rights on religious grounds, ministers condemn LGBT+ folk and give licence to violent intolerance, and so very much more.

I was never a good Catholic. I think I’d rather go to Hell for being a good person than to Heaven for being a bad one who happened to pick the right divinity. But, of course, there is no heaven, no hell, no gods. Just us. And it’s well past time we cast aside Iron Age beliefs employed to support absolutism, intolerance, and subjugation.

How to Survive a PhD

I hate the word ‘listicle’, I hate the idea of ‘listicles’, but a ‘listicle’ is, I admit, a convenient and effective way of conveying information. Listicles are, however, rarely used to convey useful information; they seem to inhabit a region of overly positive and superficially thoughtful word-vomit. But here I hope to offer some advice on how to undertake a PhD, and presenting it as a list seems the most effective manner. There is no hierarchy to this list; if anything, no.5 is the most important thing to remember at all times, but it wouldn’t make chronological sense to put it at no.1. My experiences are based in undertaking a PhD in History, and so the advice here may not be immediately applicable to the Sciences, but I feel the general principles apply to all.

1. Choose your supervisor carefully

This person will be the most important individual in your life for the next few years, so choose wisely. It’s all well and good to want to work with the best person, but it is more important to work with the best person for you. I know many a PhD student who struggled with their PhD because of conflicts with their supervisor. It is a very important working relationship, and every one is unique. I, for example, had a very critical and thorough supervisor who challenged my ideas, which I enjoyed because that’s just the way I work, while I know of other students whom the very same supervisor made cry because of ‘harsh criticism’ (I found the criticism constructive, not harsh). I know of another supervisor who has a very hands-off approach, and so some students happily work away while others feel adrift and unguided. It is critical that you speak to your (potential) supervisor about how you work and what you need, because it is all about you and your work.

2. Find a work habit that works for you

Tied to no.1 is work habits. Some lists will tell you ‘treat it like a job, work 9-5’. This did not work for me. I tried, but just didn’t. This might be more viable for the Sciences, but in the Humanities, it seems unreasonable. I worked fairly random hours. I would go in to the office for 9am and stay for as long as possible, but I wasn’t always working on my PhD. I might have read adjacent material, caught up on teaching related work, worked on translations, read comics, watched YouTube, chatted with people, stepped out for an unreasonable amount of coffee… I might not have arrived home until 10 at night, and I might not have worked on my PhD, but I was still productive. I might not have worked on my PhD for a week, but when I got back to it, I was fresh and, more importantly, interested. I needed to do other things almost to remind myself of how fun and interesting my topic was. This is how I worked; it seemed to verge on madness to some. I know people who schedule every minute of every hour of the day, but I see this as incredibly inflexible – what if inspiration strikes at 11 at night? Or at 3am? What if you just can’t think between 11am and 3pm? Find what works for you, and just work. I wrote from Day 1, some don’t write until the final year. You will see listicles saying ‘nothing you write from the first year will make it to the final cut’; I did have work that survived unscathed from Year 1 in the final text. Everyone is different, find the best way to work for you.

3. Admin, get used to it

One thing they never tell you is how much admin is involved in the PhD. It feels like bullshit, but it actually isn’t. You may think that all admin is down to a pencil-pusher, somewhere in the recesses of University Administration, who needs a box ticked and a file filled, and they will put your academic life on hold until certain requirements are fulfilled. But this isn’t really the case; I mean, I think there is too much admin, but some of it does serve a reasonable purpose. Admin is basically a way for everyone to cover their arse: here is on paper something you agreed is factually accurate, so if anything happens, we all know where we stand. Now, I am of the opinion that one should never give Admin more than they need: a student came to me once confessing a health issue which impeded their work so I had to fill out a form for an extension. I simply said that the student needed an extension. Admin happily filed it away. I later learned that another lecturer had included the reasons why the student needed an extension in great detail. I felt this was a bit weird: Admin, unless they specifically ask, does not need to know anything, especially about students. This is a specific scenario as it is within my remit as lecturer to grant extensions, I was simply informing them of the situation. It is somewhat different when you are a PhD student, but don’t feel like you have to be defensive. Just tell them, “this is the situation, this is the consequence”; never apologise (unless you actually have something to apologise for!) and cut to the chase. Do the paperwork in a timely fashion because it will take Admin longer than you think to process your paperwork. And you might have to remind them from time to time.

4. Teach

If you don’t understand something you can’t teach it. And, if your students don’t understand, it’s not them, it’s you. You are, for all intents and purposes, the expert in the room, so if someone doesn’t understand, it’s probably your fault. Teaching helped me to understand how to explain things better in my thesis, how to engage with my audience and keep them on-board for 120,000+ words. After all, what is the point of all that research if people don’t understand it? Teaching may be a pain, it may not be your thing, it may seem like a waste of valuable time, but you can learn from it. Teaching is a two-way street: you can learn from your students, you can see how people interpret things, or how you might refine your method to deliver information more effectively. Plus, for me, it was a nice distraction from the thesis!

5. You are not alone

You are not alone; you are never alone. You may feel alone, but you are not. A PhD can be an isolated and isolating experience, but know that everyone feels the same way. We all work away in our own quiet little corner of research, which might make you feel like you are working alone, but this isn’t really the case. You are working in a community of people who are working on unique projects; you are not, strictly speaking, alone. You may think to yourself, “oh that person really has it together, why don’t I?”, but believe me, they don’t. I found out after I had submitted that some people saw me as the has-it-together type, but I really wasn’t – I just seemed like it. Depression is rife among postgrads. We have a terrible habit of not talking to one another about this, but self-medication is a serious problem. And by ‘self-medication’ I mean alcohol. Postgrads drink a lot, and it seems to me to be a result of the stresses they endure. Not that anyone ever really admits this. Depression, anxiety, and stress seem woven into the PhD process. It’s like an open secret that nobody talks about, and worse, nobody warns you about. Universities seem to celebrate how well they treat their undergrads and offer counselling services, but hardly anything is said of the postgrad experience – I can’t help but wonder if it is because they are afraid that potential applicants will discover how difficult it can be and how many fail to reach the end. I often felt isolated during my PhD, but I slowly learned to deal with it through societies and friends and teaching, and I found others often felt the same way I did. You are not alone, you are never alone. Reach out and talk to someone, they are probably feeling as alone as you are, and you might be able to help each other through.

I have many friends who have been embittered by the PhD process and have fled academia; I know people who stopped because it all became too much. I don’t mean to dissuade you from considering undertaking a PhD – I really enjoyed mine, all things considered – but you have to go in with your eyes open. The University wants your money, professors are under pressure to sign students up; the system is tinged with a capitalist deceit, but go in with your eyes open and you can achieve your goals. In spite of all of the negatives, I really do feel like I have contributed to my field, I have aided in the better understanding of our history. I found the work fulfilling, and I don’t know what else I really could have done.

The listicle has its limitations, but I hope that this one is, in some small way, useful. But, the most important thing to remember is:

You are not alone, you are never alone; talk to someone.

Fwuzzerip, a ‘proof’ of Faith

I was hanging out with some Christian friends recently, and, as expected, we spoke about belief, and I get the feeling they want to convert me. They are genuinely baffled as to why I do not believe in ‘God’ (I doubt they put the quotes around that word though). And I am deeply puzzled as to why they do. One told me the story of his conversion; it was touching and clearly important to him, but I couldn’t help but think to myself “you don’t need God, you need a counsellor”. As they were going on about Jesus and miracles and stuff, my mind wandered.

Miracles amuse me. I study them, they are fascinating. But, basically, if one removes faith from the equation, they are basically fairytales and fantasy. And this is how people of one faith categorise the miracles of another. For a Christian, the miraculous deeds of Muhammad are either blasphemy, literary flourish, or fantasy, but the miraculous endeavours of the Christian sky-god and his son (as if that isn’t weird) are true. The intervention of a god is impossible in any other religion except the one they hold. How do they not see how incongruous this is? But this is only one logical flaw among many. I tried to figure out a simple way of summing up all of the issues in one neat example.

I can’t help but think of the arguments like this:

Believer A: According to my God, 1+1=1.

Believer B: Blasphemer! My God affirms that 1+1=3!

Believer C: Oh you silly people, my God holds the undeniable Truth: 1+1=fwuzzerip.

And the atheists sit on the sidelines and say: It’s 2, what is wrong with them? It’s so obviously 2. And why do we have to structure our society, laws, and social mores around their patently ridiculous assertion that it is 1, 3, or fwuzzzerip? This is holding back science and technology and human rights. We get that it helps you in some strange way to believe in 1, 2, or fwuzzerip, but do we all have to suffer for it? Can’t you just keep it to yourself? Seriously, people are dying, you are impeding the advancement of the human race.

Believer A: Ah, silly atheists, it is a miracle how my God makes it 1. Because God.

Believer B: Don’t be an idiot. Your religion is false. Only my God performs miracles. The truth of 1+1=3 says so.

Believer C: Ah, no, duh, fwuzzerip?

Atheists leave, stage left, exasperated, leaving A, B, and C to their curious argument.

***

Of course Believers don’t think that what they say is so strange. They really do think that 1+1=1, 2, or fwuzzerip. Sure, some toe the line, they agree to the answer fwuzzerip because their parents and society told them to. It’s called indoctrination. This should be stopped, obviously. Some believe that they have personally seen the ‘truth’ of fwuzzerip. Fair enough, but keep it to yourself? I love Samurai Jack and van Gogh and the Sandman Chronicles, but I don’t think we should re-model society based on them.

Sorry, dear Reader, no great diatribe here, no anger, no vitriol. Just bafflement. I really just don’t get why my friends want me to believe. When they talk about god and miracles like they are real, it literally makes no sense to me. And I imagine that they are thinking the exact same thing but from the opposite side.

It’s like as if they think Batman is really real and the movies and comics are factual recollections of his life and deeds. And praying to Batman to save you will have as much effect as praying to ‘God’. So yeah, Batman is as real as ‘God’ to me. But not to them, one is really real.

It make as much sense to me as 1+1=fwuzzerip.

(It’s so obviously 2. I mean, you get that, right?)