Suggestions for talking with…

I wonder if I might make a few suggestions for conversing with others about religion on a discussion board? I have had some experience with this, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve observed and learned.

The most important thing to know, I think, is that if you ever encounter me on a discussion forum I am always, always right. And if you disagree with me about this you are wrong.

Once we have established that basic and most fundamental of all facts, we can move on to other stuff:

Might I suggest that we never, ever, ever presume to know what other people think, feel, and believe just because they identify themselves as atheist, theist, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, pagan, Christian Scientist, or as a member of any other ideology.
Generalizations, stereotypes, and lumping whole groups of people together as one “type” are not helpful when trying to understand someone else’s perspective.
Don’t tell other people what they think. Let them tell you.
Although pomposity cracks me up, not everyone shares the same reaction as me to puffed-up know-it-allness. Humility is a beautiful thing. Let’s be willing to laugh at our own nonsense before we laugh at someone else’s.
Remember that we’re all human – we all have our own flaws and foibles – none of us is perfect here. Might I suggest that we correct our own flaws before we start trying to correct someone else’s?
Give each other grace.
Listen.
More specifically…

Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist

We should remember that the world is wide; that there are a thousand million different human wills, opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person has a different history, constitution, culture, character, from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play, the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other of these different atoms. Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities…
– Mary Baker Eddy (Miscellaneous Writings)

I wonder if I might make a few suggestions for conversing with others about religion on a discussion board?   I have had some experience with this, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve observed and learned.

The…

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“I’m putting you on ignore!”

The time for thinkers has come. Truth, independent of doctrines and time-honored systems, knocks at the portal of humanity.- Mary Baker Eddy

So there’s this tool you can use on the Amazon discussion forums that will allow you to “ignore the trolls” – you click this button and their posts go into hiding under a sign that says “You are ignoring this customer’s posts.” I myself am too curious to know what everyone else is saying to have much success using this tool, but those folks who aren’t as nosy as me sometimes use this device as a way to protect themselves from personalities they find disturbing for whatever reason.

Of course, there are folks who cannot resist letting the people they have on ignore know they have them on ignore (which sort of defeats the whole purpose, right?) – and then they need to let everyone ELSE know they’ve got these folks on ignore, too – so often an announcement is made to the person who is being put on ignore – an announcement everyone else can see, too: “I’m putting you on ignore!”

And so the fun continues. “Oh yeah?! Well, I put you on ignore first – so there!” “Well, if you put me on ignore how can you see my posts, eh?” “I unignored you so I could see your post telling me you’re ignoring me – and how can you see MY post if you’re ignoring me?!” And so on. Yeah. Good times. Good times.

But I recently found a thread devoted to ignoring “trolls” that gave me some pause for contemplation. Two of the posters that the people on this thread were considering “ignoring” were actually people of education (both had doctors degrees) and intelligence – people who put some thought into their posts. One of these posters identifies himself as an atheist, the other as a Christian – and, although I don’t always agree with them, I usually find something in their contributions to the forums that makes me dig deeper into my own beliefs and thoughts about God and life. Their posts make me think… which… I don’t know… but I’ve always considered that a GOOD thing, right?

So I wrote this response:

Wow. I have now read through this thread. It has been an eye-opener, for sure.

I see some of us are debating whether to put those big bad trolls H. and E. on ignore. And I say, right on! I think it’s best to always ignore intelligent, educated posters – like H. and E. – who might actually make us question our own stereotypes and biases and points of view. I mean, who really wants to spend any time in SELF-reflection when we can better spend our time telling OTHER people how to think, believe, and live, right? So I think we should all scurry off to our separate little groups, fortify our barriers, unite against people who don’t think like we do about stuff, find our scapegoats for every ill that has ever befallen the planet (this could be theists or atheists or Jews or Muslims or Christians or Democrats or Republicans or Ralph Nader, depending on one’s perspective), and ignore the hell out of them. Let’s make sure they know we’re ignoring the hell out of them, too. And let everyone else know we’re ignoring the hell out of them. And let’s gossip about them. Ooh! Ooh! Does life get any more fun than that?!! 🙂

Yeah. I know. I am such a troll.

And, after a little more “discussion” about “group-think” – the need the people on this thread seemed to have to come to a consensus about who to ignore, as opposed to deciding as independent, individuals thinkers which posters are helpful, and which aren’t, I finally was the recipient of the words: “I’m putting you on ignore!”  🙂

Weirdly, this did not have the effect the other poster was probably hoping it would have on me. I found myself smirking. Not so’s she could see – but, yeah, in the privacy of my own home I was smirking. Being put on ignore by a poster simply because I questioned her stereotypes proved what I’d long suspected: We tend to ignore those people who threaten our own comfortable view of the world – we tend to ignore voices that might force us to take stock of ourselves and… yeeks!… change the way we look at stuff. And so we band together with like-minded people – isolate ourselves and insulate ourselves from differing perspectives – and find a television “news” station or other “news” source that caters to our own little conceits, and our stereotypes of others.

It’s all so silly, ain’t it?

How are we ever going to learn and progress if we shut ourselves off from others who challenge the way we look at things?

seagull and cormorant

Humoristianity

In the summer of 2007, as a response to what I saw as an over-abundance of people who took themselves WAAAY too seriously,  I started a new “religion” on a discussion board about religion…

* I’ve decided to create a new religion. People belonging to this religion will call themselves “Humoristians.” Here are the 5 tenets: 
1) You must be able to laugh at yourself. 
2) You must be able to recognize how ludicrous your beliefs might appear to others. 
3) You must want nothing but good for everyone, everywhere in the universe. 
4) You must have a natural aversion to meetings, committees, and scheduled events (as we will be having none of those). 
5) You must enjoy the humor of Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, Tom Lehrer, and Jerry Seinfeld (if you’re a Jerry Lewis kind of guy, you might want to think about starting your own religion – although we wish you nothing but good).

The “one true fallacious faith” (as our “Grand Inquisitor”  the Right Ribald Reverend JL soon dubbed it) immediately took off and had an almost instant following.  Our ragtag little congregation of hooligans covered the globe – including people as far away as Australia and Europe and an army base in Afghanistan – and was comprised of atheists, a couple Mormons, an hilarious evangelical preacher’s wife, a Methodist , a Buddhist, a Catholic-Methodist-Celtic language aficionado, a nuclear physicist Trinitarian, a couple of agnostics, a pagan, an atheist Jew, and at least one Christian Scientist (moi).  We seemed a kind of unlikely little fellowship, I guess.  But we all had one really important thing in common – we  knew how to laugh at ourselves.

And soon we came to identify our church’s purpose on the discussion board: We made it our mission to battle busybody bullying bigotry wherever we found it, to bring laughter to those athirst in a dry desert of stodginess and pomposity,  and to transform the humoristically-challenged with our good-natured joie de vivre.

It was fun. 🙂

I made some wonderful new friends on that discussion thread – people who entered my life at a time when I was dealing with some major challenges and changes in my life,  and showed genuine care and friendship towards me.   We talked about stuff with each other that you don’t usually talk about in off-line life – shared our beliefs about God, Nogod, heaven, hell, nature, dogma, karma, the after life, politics – stuff you don’t often talk about even with your closest friends – and, in some ways, came to know each other better than friends and family who had been in our lives for decades.  Maybe BECAUSE we were all new to each other – we actually saw each other, and listened to each other, and didn’t take each other for granted. We didn’t assume we knew what our fellow Humoristians thought, felt, and believed, or who they were. There’s a line in Waitress that sort of sums up what I was feeling about my new friends: “I was addicted to saying things and having them matter to someone.”

On the discussion board where we established our Humoristian temple, when a discussion thread reaches 10,000 posts it’s “locked” and no more posts can be added to it. Knowing this, we only posted on our thread sporadically – it held a lot of special memories for all of us and we wanted to stretch it out for as long as we could.  But last week we finally reached our 10,000th post and closed and locked the doors of the temple. On the one hand I felt a kind of relief, I guess – that thread had been going along  for six years, and I knew it was time to graduate now – but there was a kind of sadness about it, too – it marked the end of a really happy era for me.

The good news, though, is that my Humoristian friends are STILL my friends.  I’ve actually been able to meet, in the person, several of these hooligans in recent years.  My husband and sons traveled with me to Nova Scotia to meet  the Humoristian  “Grand Inquisitor” JL and his lovely wife, Kathi (who has become one of my bestest friends ever) back in 2009;  Sandy and her husband, Danny, from New York, met up with me at Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 2011; David”Runny Babbit”  and his wife, Sue, and their two daughters, traveling from their home in Michigan, spent a couple days with our family hiking and laughing, and listening to David play the Native American flute he’d made for me out of sassafras wood from his home state; and just this week Heather “DS Wallingsford” brought her lovely South Carolinian accent and met me for lunch in Olympia.  The really amazing and wonderful thing about meeting all these people is that there was no awkwardness. At all! It was like meeting up with old, dear friends. Hugs. Laughter. Conversation that just seemed to pick up where we’d left off on the Humoristian discussion thread. It was all kind of surreal. And very cool.

I do not know what I’d do without humor in my life. I do not know what I’d do if I was surrounded by people who couldn’t laugh at themselves.  I think I might go just a little insane.

I’m so grateful for my Humoristian friends, and I’m so grateful to God – the power of Love and Life – for never failing to bring me what I need to prosper and grow. “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need,” writes Mary Baker Eddy in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.  And, for me, that human need includes laughter.

*(the tenets for Humoristianity can be found in  http://www.amazon.com/Humoristian-Chronicles-James-Longmire/dp/1105093441/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373805117&sr=8-1&keywords=humoristian+chronicles)

 

The Time I Thought God was Leading Me to Atheism

Did I ever tell you about the time I thought God was leading me to atheism?

Yeah. That probably tells you something about how my pointy little head works, eh?

I’d discovered on a religion forum that I seemed to have more in common with the forum’s atheists – many of whom became and continue to be dear friends – than I do with most of the people who identified themselves as “believers.” I came to realize that I probably actually WAS an atheist when it came to the concept of “God” that most people were describing.  The concept of God I was raised with in Christian Science was much different than the anthropomorphic wrathful, jealous, angry, vengeful, send-his-children-to-hell god that so many people seemed inclined to follow on the forum.

In the textbook for Christian Science (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures) Mary Baker Eddy writes: “The word anthropomorphic, in such a phrase as “an anthropomorphic  God,” is derived from two Greek words, signifying man and form, and may be defined as a mortally mental attempt to reduce Deity to corporeality… The ideal man corresponds to creation, to intelligence, and to Truth.  The ideal woman corresponds to Life and to Love. In divine Science, we have not as much authority for considering God masculine, as we have for considering Him feminine, for Love imparts the clearest idea of Deity.” When I’d share this concept of God with my forum friends, I was often asked why I even bother to call God “God” then – why not just say “Love” or “Truth” and be done with it?

What they were suggesting made a kind of sense to me.  And I wondered if God was leading me to atheism.

So I put atheism on and tried it out for a couple weeks. Walked around in atheism and tried to look at the world as I thought an atheist might see it. It was interesting. It wasn’t horrible. I didn’t feel like the spawn of Satan or anything.

But the thing is… well, the thing is that in the end I realized it just wasn’t me. It felt really silly and dishonest for me to deny the presence of God in my life, and to deny the wonderful things I’ve witnessed that, to me, are proof of God.   God is Love, yes. And Love is God, too – a presence and power – a verb AND a noun.

So there you have it. I am a theist. Do I think I’m in any way better than my atheist friends? Nah. I think we all find the path that makes the most sense to us – and for some of us that will include a belief in a god, and for some of us it won’t.  I can’t force myself to NOT believe in God, any more than my atheist friends can force themselves TO believe in God. And it’s all good. As my beloved Aunt Junie used to say: “Whatever makes your socks go up and down.”

“God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” – I John 4