I believe and do unpopular things.
I am an atheist. I’m homosexual (mostly). I’m an Objectivist. I dress up in animal costumes in public for fun. But, you know what, that doesn’t mean I’m not worthy of some form of respect.
What do I mean? Well, one day when I was waiting for Maus at Front Range in Longmont I talked to this woman. I had seen and talked to this woman several times before. We talked about how English wasn’t the official language of the United States. To frame her mindset, she asked where that was written. I pointed out that it’s not written anywhere, that’s the point.
Anyways, she found out I was an atheist. For some reason, this affected her greatly. She couldn’t handle that I didn’t believe someone was watching over me and taking care of my life. She immediately got sad and started evangelizing, which was fine, I understand when people need to evangelize. I evangelize about some things sometimes too. Then Maus came out of class right on time and we started to leave. She had a difficult time letting me go, and told me emphatically that “just remember, someone up there is watching over me” and that I should definitely know that (and believe it). This irritated me, because, it in essence as if I said to her, “Just remember, God doesn’t exist.” And I know, I know if I said that I would be the asshat, I would be the one that was socially unacceptable. Why is that? Why do I not deserve the same length of stick?
You can call me sensitive and self-persecutorial but you would be forgetting the consistent portrayal of atheists by many people, several times in the media. If you believe everything everybody says about atheists, we are unsatisfied, bitter, meddling little creatures that hate God and have no morals. That sounds pretty unpopular to me.
But I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that, though I may call people idiots and speak flippantly about people I disagree with to my loved ones and friends as I preach to the choir, when it comes down to discourse I treat them and their ideas with some modicum of respect. I take their ideas seriously, and when I criticize them, I criticize them with sincerity. Really, however, this isn’t about what I do personally.
I find myself consistently at the short end of a stick. As an atheist it’s okay to call me abhorrent, immoral, stupid, and many other things. But I feel strongly that if I call theists idiots, stupid, delusional, and completely without reason, I’m the one looked down on. That’s the picture I get from lots of people.
It’s becoming less ‘okay’ to call gays child molesters, also immoral, and disgusting. But notice, that’s only because they had to gain respect from a disadvantaged position (to the point of being able to marry). To many individuals, what I’ve said about homosexuals is still ‘true’, and gays are ‘re-writing’ the supposedly religious meanings of marriage. There was a time when it was socially acceptable to talk to others and even homosexuals themselves with such disdain, but it fell on completely deaf ears if gays did the same in return. In fact, if a gay said marriage was anything but a sacred union between a man and a woman they are the ones that have been looked down upon by the ‘moral majority’.
This really rears its ugly head however when I state that I am a ‘fan’ of Ayn Rand, and that I identify greatly with the label ‘Objectivist’. I don’t know if its because its more philosophical, or has more nuance or weight behind it in opposition to many other philosophies. I’m not sure if its because it’s purely in the realm of ideas and stance. Either way, I will talk to someone, or someone will talk to me, about Ayn Rand and they often will belittle and dismiss everything stating that she was a ‘poor novelist’, ‘narcissistic and greedy woman’, ‘awful atheist’, ‘just like Neitzche (and he was third reich material!)’, ‘idiotic philosopher’, and my favorite, ‘I liked Rand, but then I grew up’. I’m sorry, but these are very belittling things to say to someone and their philosophy, ESPECIALLY when they’re not backed up by anything. The moment I turn the turrets around, and I don’t mean with insults, but criticisms of modern liberalism, criticisms of someone’s conduct, holding their words up to them and expecting consistency, saying anything even remotely flippant about someone they admire, I’M the crazy insensitive ignorant person. The moment I say, “Oh, you’ve read Rand? You’re an expert? What are the three metaphysical axioms? What are the four major themes of the philosophy in terms of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics? What are the virtues that Galt declares in his massive speech in Atlas Shrugged?” I’m the belligerent one. This is true for Republicans AND Democrats. Even a simple, ‘in my opinion’ and “here’s why…” is completely lost. But I am expected to say such niceties lest I am a socially unacceptable ignoramus.
I really like the animal costumes. Because I dress up in an animal costume my life is just a big embarrassing joke and I shouldn’t be taken seriously about anything. I have no stature, and my life is to be looked down on. I deserve to be kicked in the balls by kids, humped by drunks, called a pedophile by frat boys… I’m asking for it, I put on the animal costume. Look, I understand the animal costume thing, I get the disdain, I really do. But it’s a metaphorical example of what I’m talking about. When reality is the final arbiter (and it is), there’s nothing inherently wrong with an animal costume. I do it for fun, to bring smiles to people’s faces, and to entertain children. I guess anybody who does those things deserves to be laughed at too, like Mr. Rogers.
Before someone says, “Oh, you’re so special, you’ve been discriminated against, we should all feel sorry for your delusion of persecution,” that’s REALLY not what I’m looking for. I don’t care if you feel sorry for me or not. I’m not looking for sympathy or handouts. I’m not the Christian who feels Christmas is being attacked because Starbucks changed its cup design. I’m really not. I don’t take any pride in being or doing any of these things. I take pride for who I am and what I do. I realize I’m putting myself out there in a position to be mocked, but I honestly don’t think I’m the important one in this observation. It doesn’t matter what I think, I only draw upon my own experiences to illustrate my point.
I’m just pointing out that people think it’s okay to shat on some people’s ideas and stances because it’s considered socially acceptable to do so by a majority of people. Well, it’s not okay. Whenever I ‘argue’ or debate with someone I take care to take their ideas seriously and with sincerity, and form my debate and arguments around those ideas. I don’t call people names, and I reserve any flippancy I may want to express for those close to me who share my values. We know it’s flippant, I know it’s flippant, but it’s just between us and our choir. It’s a very human thing to do, I take claim of that.
Either everybody you disagree with, as long as they haven’t done anything immoral, socially deserve some form of equal respect, or no one does. I personally find it offensive to explicitly bash people to their faces with no regard for argument or context and then expect respect from them when it comes to you. When you do that, I realize you’re not worth my time and that there’s nothing I can say that would have any effect on you whatsoever. YOU look like the ignoramus, YOU look like the knee-jerk reactionist puppet. Not me.
Maybe I’m just too sensitive. Maybe I’m a hypocrite. But I think my point is important, and one worth thinking about next time “someone’s wrong on the internet.”