Has your own language played tricks with you recently? I’m talking about those cases when you say something and a second later you realize that people understand something completely different. It happened to me twice last week, and I thought it’s an interesting topic to write about.
I bought an item for $5 in a store. Gave the cashier a $20 bill. She gave me $10 and $5 back. I said, “Can you, please, give me five dollar bills?” What do you think I meant and what do you think she heard? I needed a few one-dollar bills to give someone two dollars. She thought, I wanted the change in five-dollar bills and gave me three five-dollar bills instead of $10 and $5. It took me about three attempts to formulate what I wanted unambiguously: “Can you, please, give me five one-dollar bills?”
Now, what do you think is shown in this picture?
Two couches side-by-side. Right? “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”
Taking fragments out of context is another interesting topic.
I picked up my son from his school today. He is a third-grader in a charter public school renting a part of a building that belongs to a church. We went to a bathroom which I visited, perhaps, a hundred times before. But today I noticed something that I have never seen before on a bathroom sign. And I mean any bathroom sign, not just a bathroom sign in a church. I decided to take pictures of those signs and post them here. Perhaps, those pictures may help to break the stereotype that people who go to church are “closed-minded”.
I have been told many times by atheists that “God is a human construct”. Most recently, here:
GOD is just a myth, like every OTHER construct of man.
Well, not all “constructs of man” are myths. Men (and women, to be politically correct) come up with many ideas, not just myths. And I readily agree that God is one of such ideas.
People do not believe in things. People believe in ideas. And yes, ideas are immaterial, cannot be touched, seen, smelled, felt in any way. Well, people can read an idea, but what they see are signs or images. When people say they heard an idea, they actually heard sounds. They could be words, music, or white noise.
So, it does not bother me at all that “God is a human construct”. So is everything else for which we can find a word.
“Atheist Disillusionment” is an outstanding article by one of the “militant atheists” PZ Myers. For a change, PZ Myers expresses his frustration with … atheism.
…what I’m fast learning is that tolerance isn’t automatically a property of abandoning the false tribe of religion, but is more a reflection of the greater culture it is embedded in. Atheists can still hold a “kill the wogs” mentality while babbling about the wonders of science; people who regard women as servile appliances for their gratification don’t seem to become suddenly enlightened once the scales of faith fall from their eyes.
There is the great disappointment. The movement, whose whole premise demands a sweeping change of the culture, has discovered that it is far easier to defend the status quo than to change it. We’re willing to ask other people to think long and hard about their beliefs, to question and change, but all that other stuff that our culture planted in our heads, like beliefs about the sexes and races, like the rigid gender binary, like the suitability of women to thinking critically, like the automatic conferral of status by wealth, like the dehumanization of people who look like they might have had different great-grandparents than us, like the utility of simply killing people who disagree with us…oh, no, don’t ask us to change. We’re just here to promote atheism! One thing at a time! Once we’ve cleared away the deadwood of religion, then maybe we can think about encouraging a rational world that will have those nice things you’re talking about. Atheism is only about separation of church and state issues, or only about science and naturalism, or only about scholarly discussion of the accuracy of ancient texts, or only about fighting the barbarous customs of non-Western peoples…it’s only about the non-existence of gods, we can’t possibly consider side issues, like the harassment of women or the oppression of black communities or the diminishing educational opportunities of the poor, to be part of our brief!
The great disappointment, as usual, comes from unrealistic expectations. After all, atheism is only about disbelief in god. Atheism has to do with dislodging racist, sexist, and other social stereotypes as much as religion has to do with instilling them because these sterotypes seem to flourish in the absence of religion just as well as in the presence of it. This was the idea of my other post. To hear confirmation of my own thoughts from one of the champions of atheism is encouraging. Somehow, the teaching that one should remove the plank from his own eye before taking a speck out of the eye of his neibhbor did find its way home. Hallelujah.