I just got 200 comments and counting on my local atheist group when I posted this:
"On a matter of self reflection as a group I would like to discuss the idea of us calling anyone inferior or superior based on religion, race, gender, sexual orientation - as there all share the same medal of racism.
I realise that XXX may see this as the promotion of political correctness. I don't support political correctness as a means to an end. I do support freedom of speech. And I like the idea that we are free here to discuss opening about our attitudes.
What concerns me is that in the atheist community (on the many forums and you tubes that I've seen) I have observed what looked to me like, arrogance, prejudice, superiority and dismissive attitudes.
I realise that we all have our own nature - but I do support the idea that we can all try to act on science and reason - and not perpetrate racism or other harmful attitudes based on false beliefs about superiority. And think it important that we become more self aware of these issues and come up with effective methods that deal with it.
Preferably compassionate - based on the principles of Naturalism, rather than regressive aggression against it."
Is this a very contentious issue?
Simply wonderful, very logical. I am impressed.
I'm a sexist, racist, misogynist asshole but I have a very sophisticated blanket of civility to cover it so as not to offend people. Hey, at least I have plenty of room for improvement.
I try not to be prejudiced, but being a human I often realize that when I'm angry with another human being my mind races to find something that makes them different from what I am. If a car manages to nearly kill me I might yell or think of something sexist if the driver is a woman, or racist if the driver has another race than I do, for instance.
There is a very thin layer of civility that covers our primate past, to me, to be a human is about understanding that in the basis we are just as much cruel and heartless as that we are caring and loving to one another. If you're not aware of the racist/sexist part of who you are, you are in effect repressing it and since you are not aware of it there is nothing you can do to alter your behavior.
Thanks for this well thought out post Ruth!
Not everyone is like this. It is a well-known error of human judgement to suppose that others are more like us than they really are. We only have our own individual perspective which makes it harder to understand others. And, there *are* things you can do to alter your attitudes and behavior. Unless you *choose* not to.
Yeah, we have a different perspective sure, but my point is that all humans do share the underlying genetic (primate ) history. In and out group mentalities are something that we see in most social animals, primates included.
So when I said that I am a racist/sexist etc I mean to say that a part of me has these kind of in and out group mentalities ingrained in it's genetic history. While you can be aware of these thoughts to some degree a lot of it is not decided on a conscious level and humans are not aware of those mentalities.
"It is a well-known error of human judgement to suppose that others are more like us than they really are."
Well, that all depends on what we are "measuring". If you mean genetics, you're wrong, if you talk about character and personality I would have to agree with you.
I know, I am butting in on your conversation. But allow me to say that each one of us has different life experiences and see things from different perspectives. We, each one, need to tell our own stories and respond to others' stories honestly. We aren't in this internet community to make everyone agree with us, we each have our own message. So, write on.
Please feel free to comment! Our individuality and identity is all that we have. Our history and our thoughts are to be shared and disagreement (criticism) is often the basis for getting a better understanding of other people's opinions as well as giving opportunity to change one's perspective.
As long as we attempt to listen and understand each other, we might be able to break some barriers, communicating on a forum is hard work and misunderstanding each other is as common as trolling.
Racism is often a touchy subject as many people fall victim to it in the past and the present. We are humans and sometimes we fail of being a decent person, it can be little moments years apart but we all do treat people badly sometimes because we bear some scars from our past or we're hurt, fragile or scared.
This does not excuse people from racism and discrimination, although it does offer some explanation why good people can treat each other so badly.
However often people have treated people of another race badly because it simply was obvious or natural that we (I?) are superior to these <insert racial slur here>.
I am inclined to think that it is because of ingrained in and out group mentalities that most social animals seem to have for their pack. People can consciously overcome this quite easily, but to which extent your consciousness is really running your brain and life we might disagree, ergo, you the individual the conscious persona might not be a racist, but your brain is hardwired to create behavioral patterns that reflect in and out group mentalities.
We think that our eyesight is pretty damn good, while in fact it is not, we can only see a tiny bit of the available wavelengths. Likewise for our hearing and our brain (and consciousness). We are not far away from little shrew-like mammals that were on everyone's menu, and our brain shows this. Sure, we have adapted the basic design quite a bit and enlarged certain bits here and there, but the basic structure is still the same.
Whatever consciousness we have is perhaps just a bit of software that runs in the brain to process current and present information. We only ever achieved anything when we applied this bit of software to our surrounding and slowly we developed in the direction of the scientific method.
If you and I, what we feel and belief that we are, are nothing but one of the many processes running in the brain are we then really to believe that only our conscious self is in control of our behavior?
My conscious self is a calm and mild persona, but it operates and interacts with a sloppy computer that has a horrible file storing system and registry, all the while running several operating systems at the same time that hardly interact with one another. Furthermore the operating instructions of these systems has a primal origin and does perhaps not share the more noble motives of our conscious self.
We're really just monkeys with shoes, or fish if you'd prefer. It is our consciousness which makes us feel and act human, but to which degree we are in control we might argue about.
Thanks for your input Joan! I'm sorry if I am a bit lengthy but I'm a bit of a dweeb, a science guy and I can't help but share my views on subjects such as consciousness.
BTW, did you know that a study has shown that consciousness occurs after a decision is made, that can leave people to think quite lengthy existential thoughts.[link]
We are all fully cause to think, do and say what we do :)
"Fully cause to think, do and say ... " Is more information available in the links you have already sent me? I'm reading as fast as I can.
Maybe it's the language barrier, but I don't get it, could you perhaps be so kind as to explain?
Joan - have a look at this: http://www.naturalism.org/freewill.htm
Thanks Joan, much appreciated. It took me some time to write that post, when I was done my first though was, tl;dr.