Monday, March 2, 2015

More Self-Criticism

A couple of days ago, in the blog post Signs That There's Something Seriously Wrong With Me, I attempted to begin a course of rigorous self-criticism. Now I'll attempt to continue that criticism and get more in-depth:

Earlier today I blogged about a popular talking point among movement atheists, the assertion that they know the Bible better than Christians do, that many of them have read it all the way through. I... Uh... Well I flat-out called that assertion horseshit. So in the post about bible-reading, it seems I did pretty much exactly what I criticized myself for a couple of days ago: I was harshly unpleasant, I delivered more or less a verbal slap in the face.

Well... that's what I do here, in a lot of posts anyway: criticize others without a lot of restraint. But I'm actually not going to criticize the harsh blog post about Bible-reading right now; rather, I'm going to examine some of my actions following the publishing of that post. Maybe I need to critique such posts, maybe I very badly need to do so, but facing that possibility is more than I can handle right now. Crawl before you can walk.

I linked the Bible-reading post in a few online discussion groups, and right away I got some negative responses from atheists claiming to know the Bible very well. Today's self-criticism will consist of examining my responses to some of those comments:

One person claimed that I could open a Bible to any page and he'd be able to tell me exactly how the text had been altered. My response to that was: "Ah, more bullshit, right on cue!" Last I checked there had been no response to that, neither by the person I was addressing nor from a third party.

Another person asked what was my evidence that movement atheists didn't know the Bible well? I told him that I had already answered that question in the link to the blog post, which mentioned how movement atheists' discussion of the Bible tended to revolve around the same 12 verses from Genesis and Leviticus and 5 snarky quotes about the Bible from famous people. He said that wasn't an answer. I felt it was an answer, but I didn't respond, nothing to say occurring to me which I felt would be productive. (Insulting responses occurred to me but I kept them to myself.) After we had exchanged a few more comments, some having to do with the Flood, I said that I was unsure whether Moses or Jesus had existed, much less Noah; he said he doubted if any of them existed; by "all of them" I understood him to mean "all of the people mentioned in the Bible," and I said: "That's exactly the kind of statement that makes me doubt you've read the Bible at all." Perhaps a minute later, I commented: "Sorry, maybe I misunderstood you: if by 'all of them' you just mean 'Noah, Moses and Jesus,' that's certainly completely different than if you meant 'all of the people mentioned in the Bible.'" This guy had been sending a pretty steady of stream of comments, and I waited a while for more, but no more came, and that's when it occurred to me that he might have broken off the conversation, perhaps un-subscribed from the thread, because I was being rude and insulting.

Perhaps other people looking on both of those threads un-subscribed because I was being rude.

Maybe people stop communicating with me all the time because I'm being rude.

I want to be an extremely rich and famous writer. But if I became rich and famous, and got invited to be a guest on "Conan," and Conan and I were chatting about, oh, let's say, the Bible, and at a certain point the crowd responded to something which Conan or I had said with enthusiastic applause, and I turned to the audience, or should I say turned on them, and interrupted the applause by saying something like, for instance, "Applauding that just demonstrates that you're all uneducated and ignorant," well, I suppose it's possible that one single such comment at such a place and time might suddenly make me much less popular. I can imagine Conan, and other talk-show hosts, not inviting me back to their shows because of one single remark like that. And the thing is: I can easily imagine myself saying something like that at such a time and place, saying it spontaneously, without a thought.

And the thing is -- I've said a lot of things like that to a lot of different people over the years. In fact, I've said a lot of things which were much harsher than that to perfect strangers, for no reason at all other than that I thought it would be funny to be mean.

Okay. Getting clearer and clearer: I have a problem. It's especially a problem if I want millions of people to love me.

Up until that other post a couple of days ago I tended to agree with my Mom's opinion of me: that I'm a sensitive angel and a misunderstood genius. Can't really go 100% with that assessment any more. (Thinking about this reminded me of Marge Simpson looking at each member of her family in turn and saying what she admired about them, and coming to Bart, and saying: "I like Bart's... [long pause] ...I like Bart.") Whaddayagonnado, she's my Mom. I love you, Mom. But if I continue in this new habit of looking mercilessly at myself, maybe I can become a little less of an unbearable asshole. And maybe that will lead to some good changes in my life. I would like a whole bunch of good changes in my life, please.

One thing I'm not going to do is to start lying, and saying positive things I don't mean. For example: I stand by what I said about movement atheists/New Atheists not being the Biblical scholars they claim to be. It may be a harsh truth, but it's the truth. But maybe I can change the way I phrase things, change my choice of words. Maybe in some situations, for example, "I call bullshit" is a less constructive choice of words than, oh, I don't know... "I think we may have been living with an illusion here." I will give all of this some serious thought.

As always, I wonder how many Facebook groups I've been banned from today.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting self-insights, and I expect you're on target. Although I have belonged to several inter-faith discussion groups over the years, I'm one of those who will walk away from a "discussion" when the insults start flying. I've rarely found that "being mean" is funny, but it's more that when the insults start flying I've found that the person making them has stopped listening or being open to the possibility of having their mind changed so it's no longer a discussion (it's a stage for the wannabe comedian). If that's not true about you, then you have to be careful about feeding the stereotype. I think that today you've started to realize that sometimes sitting on your fingers is better than typing -- at least if you want folks to keep talking/typing to you. Good first step.