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so, is this, like, New Atheism, or what?

Here is a summarized version of the “discussion” I had with Jory, which I previously blogged about. I had posted a picture on my Facebook page of a diseased piglet in a factory farm, to which Jory replied “mmmm…diseased face”. I took out some of the personal things that were not relevant to the discussion that I want to focus on in this blog, which is the New Atheist-type shit this guy was spewing. I don’t know about you, but I am fairly certain he was confusing being “right” in a moral sense with being “right” in an opinion sense. I’m not sure how someone needing to “be right” all the time can possibly be equated with morality, but then again, most of the stuff this guy said doesn’t make any sense. Enjoy!

Jory:
Something about me: I don’t define my world in terms of “right” or “wrong,” I think either “this works” or “this doesn’t work.”…

Diseased piglets living in squalor, in my opinion, absolutely does not work….I’m not shocked, I’m not offended, and I don’t see it as a poor undeserving soul. If you’re interested to understand my perspective, let me know.

I don’t have the emotional connection to the image that you do. If it was necessary for me to have any compassion while formulating my response, it would have been for considering YOUR feelings about whatever I said — not the pig’s. The pig doesn’t care what I say. You do.

Me:
I assure you, Jory, that the pig cares. The pig does not want to be in that situation–the pig is suffering. The pig can feel pain and therefore has an interest in avoiding it…

I have to ask, though, about your idea that “is it working?” or “is it not working?”….why are you against taking a stand on right and wrong? When you ask yourself if something “is working”, for whom is it working? You? In the example of the pig, it is clearly NOT working for the pig. It is, however, working for you, as you get cheap meat, and it is working for the people exploiting the pig and making money off his death. So how do you decide if it’s working? Based only on if it works for YOU? If so, that is the very opposite of morality, and is the foundation of exploitation.

Jory:
Have you ever met someone who had a constant need to be right all the time? Were they a total drain or what?

“Being right” is something we developed in the caveman days. Back when we lived off of foraged berries and one was healthy while the other was poisonous, being WRONG literally meant DEATH. Being right meant survival. It was an important skill and it helped humanity survive the ages.

Today, unless you have a career in the army or the bomb squad, the need to be right is largely extraneous.

In my own life, I’m doing my very best to completely remove my need to be right. I hate it. It sucks.
Right and wrong leads to arguments, conflicts, battles, world wars. It creates a world where everybody’s standing on their own balconies shouting about how they see the world from their perspective, and are unwilling to go to another’s balcony and check out their view. It creates unnecessary struggle.
Right and wrong… well, it doesn’t work. It isn’t wrong, it just doesn’t work.

As you can see, I may be a little passionate about this. 😛

Anyway, I’m not 100% at this — with 100,000 years of genetically-programmed behavior, completely weeding out right/wrong from my thought process is going to take constant practice. But if I can at least be willing to observe another person’s point of view before emotion gets involved, my life will be a whole lot happier.

So yeah. In my opinion (just my opinion), industrial farms and shitty living conditions do not work. They don’t work for the planet, for the animals, or for the people that eat them. So I agree with you, I just don’t have the same amount of emotional conviction.

Me:
I don’t see what being right or wrong has to do with fundamental morality. Someone who needs to be right all the time has some personal issues, I agree, but that is entirely different from morality. Saying that the PCs are better than the Liberals is an opinion….you can’t actually be right or wrong. But there are some things in our world that most would agree are not morally justifiable. You have an interesting perspective, though…..

Jory:
**Subjective personal opinion warning**

Morality is TOTALLY about right and wrong. It was invented by religion as a means of controlling the population with fear by defining in black-and-white terms what would send people to heaven or hell.
Fuck all that shit.

If I’m going to be loyal to a sexual partner, for example, it has nothing to do with morals. I believe in karma and the law of attraction — I prefer not to do things to other people that I wouldn’t want done to me. If I choose to be kind and let someone cut me off in traffic, it isn’t so I’ll go to heaven, it’s because I appreciate it when other people let me cut in front of them.

To take that all the way, I believe Osama Bin-Laden made the best decisions he knew to make at the time. As did Adolf Hitler. Their decisions didn’t work for millions of people, but that doesn’t make them the devil, right, wrong, immoral, etc.

With that, this conversation is dangerously approaching the point where I’ll need tell you why I don’t see the diseased piglet as a poor unfortunate soul… you mentioned you didn’t wanna hear it so this may be the end of our convo. 😉

Me:
Really. Interesting. I am not a religious person at all, yet I believe there are certain moral truths. They do not come from the bible. Or god. Or whatever. They come from something I cannot describe or define, because they can’t be proven. Gary Francione wrote an interesting essay on this. I do not cheat on my partner, because I feel it’s wrong. It’s wrong because it would hurt him, and I have no desire to hurt someone I love. I don’t see any religion in that.

To me, it seems you are largely arguing semantics. “It works” or “it doesn’t work” are simply euphemisms for right and wrong. Whatever way you call it, it comes down to the same thing. Not doing things you would not want done to you is very biblical, by the way. The golden rule and all that. Just saying.

Jory:
To clarify:
Do your definitions of right and wrong allow for other peoples’ perspectives, or are they absolute, black-and-white, universal, apply-to-everybody, etc.?

If you see something as wrong, does that mean it’s 100% wrong, period, end of discussion? Or does it just mean it’s wrong for you in your own world?

Me:
I think there are certainly some absolute moral standards. For example, it is absolutely wrong to engage in rape or child molestation or animal exploitation. These standards are not derived from religion, although many religions reject violence. I don’t think there is ever a time when a moral justification could be given for raping someone, molesting a child, or exploiting an animal. So, yes, there are some intrinsic moral absolutes. And I think the overwhelming majority of people would agree that the first two actions I identified are WRONG, and my goal has always been to show how the third is exactly like the first two. Any time a person abuses another being, human or non-human, for their own personal gain or enjoyment, that person is committing an intrinsic moral wrong. Moral truths are independent of perspectives—they simply are. They cannot be proven or disproven.

That is where I see a major flaw in what you are advocating: Does it work, or does it not work? Again, I pose the question, For whom? If raping a person does not “work” for the person being raped, but it does “work” for the person doing the raping, then how do you decide whether rape is something that does or does not work? And what does that mean? If it works for the rapist, then the rapist should commit the rape? Whose interests take precedence, and why? And why would YOU be interested in deciding at all, seeing as you are not in the situation, so the raping is neither working nor not working for you? Your perspective raises more questions than it answers.

You asked me if I see something as being wrong, does that only apply in my world? So, if I see rape as wrong, do I only see it as wrong if I am the one being raped? Do I think it is okay for others to be raped? No. Rape is wrong, in any “world”. Period, end of discussion. It is not okay to rape a person who is dressed a certain way, it is not okay if either person is intoxicated and it is not okay to rape a person who is a prostitute. If you have something to say to refute that, please do try.

In my view, the person being raped is being subjected to violence at the hands of someone who is exploiting them. There is no moral justification for this. My perspective is that humans must embrace nonviolence as a basic normative principle, one that we see as reflecting a moral truth, and as the foundational moral principle from which all other moral principles flow. We must reject violence, hatred, prejudice and discrimination. Gary Francione says exactly this, and a whole lot more, in his essay here: http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/new-atheism-and-animal-ethics-some-reflections/. He also discusses how religions are not the cause of hatred and violence—they simply provide a mechanism to express it, which secular institutions also do.

Jory:
Excellent, thanks.

Definitely not semantics. My work/doesn’t work does not translate to your right/wrong.
I don’t mean to disrespect your long reply with this short one — but your stance doesn’t really leave a whole lot of room for discussion.

Me:
But you still haven’t answered the question of the works/doesn’t work and for whom….I think there’s lots of room for discussion, but only if you want to. Evidently you don’t. End?

Jory:
In your world, if I understand correctly, there’s no such thing as something that’s right for one person but wrong for the next.

In my world, something that works for one person doesn’t automatically work for everybody else.

My opinion: in the big picture, the kind of absolute black-and-white definitions of right and wrong you’ve talked about just lead to hurt. They lead to ridicule, intolerance, persecution, unnecessary arguments, pointless battles, religious wars, and genocide to name a few. Black and white is an extremely narrow filter to look at the world from.

My perspective (and prepare to be horribly offended): in the absolute biggest sense, rape has worked for everybody it’s ever happened to, and for everybody who’s ever done it.

Moving forward, I would love to think that humanity has experienced enough of it that we don’t need it any more. I would like to declare humanity “officially done” with rape, but that isn’t for me to decide.

Standing on a podium screaming at the top of my lungs about how wrong it is, is only going to spread shitty energy. You can’t fight hurt with more hurt. It doesn’t work.
If/when humanity decides to end rape once and for all, it will be a choice made of love and consciousness — not a narrow angle of something that’s “wrong, because we said so.”

Me:
Wow, you could not have misrepresented me more. No, I didn’t say that there is no such thing as something that is right for one person and not for another. What I ACTUALLY said was that there are certainly some absolute moral wrongs. It’s that kind of bizarre twisting of words that leads to problems.

Morality is not a problem and does not lead to war, violence, etc. Hatred and violence are the problems, and greed could probably get thrown in there too. Religion is not the SOURCE of morality, as you incorrectly claim. Religion REFLECTS morality–morality came about as a way of helping people to live harmoniously. If we are to live together in peace, there are certainly some things we ought NOT do to each other.

Rape does not “work” for anyone, and it’s absurd to say such a thing. To speak out against violence, or as you put it, to stand on a podium and scream (I have never done any such thing, by the way), is to give a voice to those who have none. It is a way of making people aware that there is a problem that humanity has an obligation to address. To shrug your shoulders and say, meh, rape works for people, is ridiculous and self-serving–it allows you to never have to take a stand on anything. It denies the people for whom rape is a very real problem the compassion they deserve.

Saying that there are certain absolute moral wrongs does not lead to, as you put it, a “narrow” view of the world. Rejecting violence does not lead to violence. Your logic is flawed, as is your idea of “works” and “does not work”. How does one define “works”? You still have not really answered the question. In what way does rape “work” for its victims? Have you ever spoken to one to find out if it actually “works” for them?

You can argue about spreading shitty energy, but that, like everything else you’ve said, is flawed. Promoting non-violence by rejecting exploitation, which is what I am advocating, does not spread shitty energy. Shrugging your shoulders, turning a blind eye to it and saying violence, in any form (like rape), “works” most certainly does.

Your last comment completely supports exactly what I was saying, although I think you fail to realize it. If/when humanity rejects violence (which is my moral stance), it will be a choice made of love and consciousness (yes, no argument there–that is exactly what I said). I never ONCE said that morality is “because I said so”. I believe what I said was that some morality is intrinsic. It simply is, not because anyone “said so”. It is simply truth, which cannot be proven by science because science is itself a belief system. If you read Francione’s essay, which clearly you did not, you’d find that he actually says that we must all buy into the belief that violence must be rejected in order for it to ever BE rejected–it is a choice.

I find it hilarious that by attempting to refute what I was saying, you actually ended up supporting a great deal of it, without even realizing it.

[NOTE: This is where Jory realizes he’s not doing so hot in our discussion and resorts to personal attack—-please keep in mind that this guy barely knows me and has not spent any personal time with me at all.]

Jory:
Oh, boy. I’m sorry, this isn’t my definition of “a discussion” at all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody more defensive or unwilling to accept anybody else’s viewpoint.

I’m done. Here’s the feedback I mentioned a couple days ago. Feel free to discard all of the following. No response is required.

Shortly after you and Mark began dating, he told me what a wonderful, accepting person you were…I thought it was wonderful that he met someone who he felt accepted around. You’re great for him — you even show your support by going to all his gigs, which is amazing. He’s lucky to have someone who loves him as much as you do.

With that said, every time I’ve observed you around him while he’s eating, I don’t know if you realize this, but your face doesn’t show love. It shows disgust and contempt. You don’t take any pains to hide it. I see the same thing when I eat around you… when anybody eats around you. I think, if you could maybe train your face to show something other than disgust whenever Mark eats meat around you, your relationship with him would be even happier than it is now.

To be blunt, Kylie, you’re a terrible spokesperson for the vegan lifestyle. You seem angry, bitter and cynical. If you were one of those happy, bright, enthusiastic people who had tons of energy, your arguments would be a lot more persuasive. As it is now, your behavior leads people to think “well, I sure as fuck am not going Vegan if it’s going to make me all bitter and cynical like Kylie is.”

I admire the vegan lifestyle. It can’t be easy in today’s society. The other day. I went to a vegan restaurant and was blown away by the energy of the place, of the happy people and how great the food looked. I didn’t see anybody who regarded me with disgust, contempt, cynicism or any other kind of judgment. They were just happy accepting people.

The reason people aren’t responding well to your posts isn’t because they’re stupid or stubborn. It’s because you go around looking down your nose at everybody. This is just my own personal opinion, but it’s based on my observations of your behavior over the years. You don’t work very hard to hide the ugly stuff. I don’t recall ever hearing you talk about how much joy and peace and love and happiness your choice in diet brings you. Actually, it seems to have made you very bitter and cynical. Overall, your lifestyle doesn’t appear to bring you a whole lot of joy.

I think we can both agree that your primary motive behind posting the piglet photo/caption was to get a reaction. An ugly one. It had nothing to do with love at all. It’s just gonna spread more ugliness. Are you honestly shocked and surprised by the response you got from whoever-it-was? Really? Do you think if you stood on a box in Churchill Square broadcasting the same kind of ugliness that you’d get any different a response?

The general population aren’t cynical. They just want to be happy. Being cynical is typically reserved for the highly-intelligent. The general population aren’t stupid, but they also aren’t highly-intelligent. If you really want to reach them, you’ll need to start speaking their language. Get down to their level and understand their world before you go on your next ugly rant.

I understand you feel a lot of hurt when you look at the world. I get it. I look at the world and see so many things that aren’t working. There are so many ugly things that we do to our planet, to the lifeforms on it, to each other and to ourselves. I’m sorry, though, your angry/defensive/bitter/cyncial way of being is not serving you, will never serve you, and will never help you inspire the change you want to make happen. Ever.
End rant.

I’m sorry I misinterpreted your stance on absolute rights and wrongs. It seemed pretty black and white to me. Maybe I am 100% full of shit in everything I’ve said above. Maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about. Maybe I have twisted every single word you’ve said into a complete and utter misrepresentation of someone you’re not.

So, don’t take this all from me. Ask around. Ask people in your life who love you and aren’t afraid to be honest.

Our biggest weaknesses are our greatest strengths turned up too loud. I think if you could turn down your volume just a little bit, you’d be surprised at the results.
Thanks for your time.

Me:
You don’t get to dump that on me and say “no response required.”

Where do you get off talking about how I look when you, or anyone, eats around me? You’ve spent all of, what, five minutes with me?

For someone who has never spent any time at all with me, I am stunned that you say that I am not bright and happy. You are not with me 24/7, so how can you judge? If I have a bad day, or a bad night, that may or may not have anything to do with you or anyone around me or with veganism, it may show on my face. I may not be chirpy. Oh, I’m sorry, Jory, we can’t all crack constant jokes like you. I am a very shy, very quiet person. You know why? Because of judgmental people like you.

Gee, I wonder why I might not be so trusting.

Have you ever once, for a single moment, stopped to consider that maybe I am afraid to jump enthusiastically into a conversation for fear of looking like a fool? I have never felt comfortable with you. Now I understand why.

I have never regarded you with disgust or contempt. I simply don’t know how to interact with you because you never seem to take anything seriously and I don’t understand your jokes. I am at a loss.

You make sweeping judgments about the joy in my life without ever having been there to see it…

My primary goal behind posting the picture was a rebuttal of others I had seen…

If telling the truth about things spreads ugliness, then so be it. Imagine how ugly life is for those animals who live in factory farms. You are all about happiness—whose? Your own? That is so selfish. My life is about compassion. If you ever made the slightest effort to get to know me, beyond the vegan you hate so much, you’d find a loving, loyal and true friend…

I live the change I want to make. I fail to see how that is cynical…

I am sorry you took our “discussion” so badly—it seems to me that you wanted to prove you are right. I accept your viewpoint. I was asking questions to try and understand it, and I found flaws and asked more. That, to me, is what discussion is, not just you positing something and me just agreeing with it. I don’t agree. But I don’t reject you. However, it seems you reject me, based on a whole lot of nothingness. It’s too bad you never bothered to get to know ME.

I could tear you apart the way you have done to me, but I’m above that. Suffice it to say, though, that your lifestyle doesn’t seem to bring you much joy. You always act goofy and silly, but that does not equate to joy. A joyful person would never say to a friend what you just said to me. You call it honesty; I could be honest with you, but I would never hurt you that way. Sometimes, honesty is just not the best policy. Friendship, and love, is.

Thanks, Jory. I learned a valuable lesson today about how nasty you can be despite all your talk of joy. I find it ironic that you accuse me of being cynical and then go ahead and justify any cynicism I may have had.

Jory:
Finally, we’re getting somewhere. Finally, honesty. Thank you so very much. Feel free to unload whatever else might be in there. I promise I won’t perceive it as you stooping to anything less than your best.

I don’t hate you. I think you’re great for Mark, I thought I’d said that. You feel disgust and contempt, and you support him anyway. I’m not sure you’re really acting in your best interest if that’s how you really feel about what you do, but I see it as very loving…

Your message gives me a ton of individual points to respond to, but I’ll let you decide whether that’s necessary or not. For now all I’m going to say is thank you, and if you have any more feedback about me, I’m wide open. Don’t feel a need to hold back.

Me:
Oh, I have feedback.

[and here I rant a bit about why I don’t feel comfortable around Jory, and we have an exchange that has nothing to do with the focus of this blog, so I omitted it]

Jory:
I will accept that some of the things I’ve said have been inaccurate — I’m sorry, I take back the contempt part, though it seems we both agree that disgust is accurate.

If your original piglet posting wasn’t cynical, please let me know what it was. I’ll take back the bitter statement, and I’m sorry about that….

Me:
In fact, no, I don’t agree about the disgust. I rarely even notice the things people around me are eating, because it’s easier for me to just tune it out…If you see me with a look of what you perceive to be disgust on my face, then ask me in that moment what I am thinking or feeling–it’s probably not what you think.

[more personal, unrelated stuff omitted]

And about the picture of the pig…as I’ve already explained, I had seen other pictures that had captions like “Weee! We’re going to the bacon store! (Little did he know he was not coming back)”. That was the caption for a picture of a piglet who was joyously looking out the back window of a car. It made me sad, and I felt that a reminder of what these animals actually go through might put those kinds of pictures and comments in a better perspective. Their lives are sad, and short, and brutal and not the butt of jokes. I didn’t even post my picture on the page of the person who had posted the others. I just posted it on my own. Like my choice to be vegan, I am not out to offend others. I do it to answer to my own conscience. So, no, cynicism did not factor into it.

Jory:
…What I’m about to say may be the most fucked-up thing you’ve ever read. But, here goes.
I chose my parents. I chose my time and place of birth, and through the decisions in my life, I choose my time and place of death.

My father is in my life to teach me the lesson of living in my own power. My mom presents the lesson of compassion. My sister is here to teach me about boundaries.

I have chosen everything that has ever happened to me — kicked while I was in the womb, an abusive alcoholic father, a bipolar mother, and a little sister I had to protect from the evils of the world. If I wanted, I could totally live a life of blame and victimhood and nobody would ever fault me for it. People often hate the joyful side of me and assume that I’ve had a picture-perfect childhood. It’s absolutely not the case.

The purpose of my life is to evolve, learn, and experience. Pain is every bit as valuable to me as joy. I’d much rather be hurt in a relationship and learn about myself than be bored and unchallenged.

My beliefs are absolutely not for everybody.

My definition of compassion is seeing where someone is at in their life, seeing the choices they’ve made, and accepting them anyway. With that said, compassion for our friend Mr. Piglet simply does not apply. I don’t see him as a victim, I see him as a fully-empowered being who is living his life’s purpose. None of us ever really know just how much we’ve touched the lives of others until the moment we die — his purpose may have been to teach the farmer something, to teach the world something, to set the stage for you and I to learn about ourselves, or it may simply have been to gain a better understanding of what misery is. I can’t really know for sure because I’m not him.

You and I perceive the world with very different filters. We look at the exact same thing and see completely different circumstances.

You and I both agree, very strongly, that industrialized farming doesn’t work. And we have extremely different reasons why.

So. I have tremendous respect for the vegan lifestyle – as I’ve mentioned, it can’t be easy in today’s society. I enjoy going to vegan restaurants, and find vegans to be some of the most happy and energetic people.

Me:
For someone with an apparently anti-religious stance, your philosophy smacks remarkably of religion. The idea of purpose, and the idea that some of us are simply meant to suffer, is very religious. It’s “God’s plan” that we suffer and learn our lessons through that suffering. To simply accept suffering as a necessity, something imposed upon us for our own good, is a very religious thought.

I am glad to hear you say you respect the vegan lifestyle, but you made some nasty assumptions about me based on the fact I am vegan. If you had not known I was vegan, you would not have assumed I was disgusted by the meat my husband was apparently eating in front of both of us. You would have assumed something different, although perhaps no less unflattering. Your assumption came from your experience with vegans, which appears to be not good given your willingness to assume the worst of me. You also jumped to “bitter” and “cynical”, which are often labels non-vegans use for vegans. If your experience of vegans was truly that they are joyful, then your assumption would have been that I was joyful too, and you would not have pegged my veganism as the source of what you thought you were seeing on my face at that moment.

Jory:
There are bits and pieces of various religions that I like. My big problem with religion is when it gets into trying to control behavior through guilt, shame, etc. bleh!

Your points are all excellent. Yes, I did make up stories and yes, those were based on certain assumptions… If I’d seen similar facial expressions on the face of someone I consider more joyful, I might actually, rather than making up a story, simply ask what’s up.

Asking directly and not jumping to conclusions is something I’ve only recently started implementing in my life. I’ll need a lot more practice at it.

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One comment on “so, is this, like, New Atheism, or what?

  1. I just re-read this, years after the original incident happened, and the stupidity of Jory’s “arguments” still floor me. I am so glad this asshole is no longer in my life! Good riddance, bro, and may it be the will of the universe that I never see your face again.

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