Thursday, 24 November 2016

Right wing religious special snowflakes and the religious war on philosophy...

- Bruce Long

Recently, the philosophy magazine Daily Nous has reported several incidents where the religious right – mainly in the US – has gone after atheist professors in colleges. Specifically, they've targeted philosophers that tend to ask annoying questions about things like the existence of god, and do really bad stuff like refusing to assume said being is more than fictional, and failing to allow challenges against LGBT marriage rights to be carried through by monopolization of class time. Preposterous!

The first rather nasty incident involves a complicated and unfortunate set of circumstances where a female philosopher (clearly the worst kind) omitted to allow space for a right-wing student to attack LGBT marriage rights on the basis of data allegedly demonstrating that children raised by same sex couples were defective in some way compared to those raised in religious traditional families (not the historically common polygamous religious kind – but God’s own family unit kind). The fallout for this academic has been extremely personal, and nothing short of savage (Source:  http://dailynous.com/2014/11/18/philosophy-grad-student-target-of-political-smear-campaign/).




The second  example of such conservative religiobonkers insanity is a witch hunt launched by Christians against atheist Philosophy professors in colleges in the form of a kind of a ‘watch list’ of atheist professors ‘accused’ of  “discriminat[ion] against conservative students, promot[ing] anti-American values and advance[ing] leftist propaganda in the classroom.” ( http://dailynous.com/2016/11/23/philosophers-professor-watchlist/ )

Peter Singer is on it, and so now is George Yancy, and so membership on the list is set to become like an unusual new professional credential-in-demand. Getting ‘listed’ is unlikely to involve anything other than openly discussing or entertaining convictions that aspiring conservative theocrats dislike, and so I think there will be many philosophers aspiring to this honour roll. Or I guess one could be a witch. That would probably get one on the list. ( https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/11/22/new-website-seeks-register-professors-accused-liberal-bias-and-anti-american-values )




These incidents follow a cultural trend  exemplified by the well known attempt at the profiling of atheist college philosophy tutors and professors as godless defectives with personality problems by Kevin Sorbo’s not exactly award-winning performance in the utterly missable 2014 evange-o-flick “God’s not Dead”.

Image result for Kevin Sorbo
The Sorb
So, being as we are good academics and readers, and given the fairly ridiculous and somewhat crazy nature of these outcomes, we should perhaps do some kind of philosophical, social, and historical survey to investigate where this is all coming from. On the other hand, given the utterly moronic nature of the above mentioned examples of right wing hysteria, it would be a lot more fun to proceed as follows…

Here is a philosophy, history, and religion question to ponder:

What came first – philosophy or religion?

In my opinion it was philosophy, since before some clueless but promising bright spark of a cave-dweller staring out at the sparkling oblivion of the night sky said to themselves and others “Maybe someone did it”, they had to have asked themself one of the following questions (or even thought it non-linguistically somehow):

“What is that big shiny thing in the sky and why is it there?”

“What am I and how did I get here?”

“Why is there anything at all?”

At which point, of course, they were doing philosophy. This view - my disposition - is that of a philosopher. It’s that philosophy is pre-theological, and that theology is not necessarily some kind of evolved or developed improvement in thinking, but possibly a deviant or errant alternative (deviant in terms of the rejection of well grounded reason). It is a view that – apparently – theologians and their acolytes frequently ­­find to be dissatisfying at best. In fact, they have found this view so dissatisfying throughout history, that human philosophy has become at a frequent sparring partner of religion, and in many cases has been viewed as nothing less than a diabolically inspired enemy.

Damned worldly philosophers – asking all of those questions about , well, the world, and not being satisfied with “God did it”. What’s wrong with them? Pests.

There is in fact a long and sordid history of violence against philosophers by religious elites and their flocks, and those that sought to use them for political gain and influence. After all, you can’t get rich and eat grapes whilst taking the villagers’ virgins in prima nocta type situations (among others) if the villagers are distracted from working for you and submitting to you by silly questions. Silly question like – say - whether the god you have told them wants them to work for you and submit to you really exists. That’s just a pain in the over-lordy ass.

Those pesky philosophers in the group. They have to go. Questioning dogma: that just won’t do. And did they say something about god being a fiction made by men? Wow. That’s really going to get in the way of the acquisition of the grapes and the virgins.

“Rubbish” says the right wing Not-Devil’s advocate.

Aww. Now don’t be like that Mr Right Wing religious conservative. Breath. Relax. It will all be okay. Then eventually you will very likely die and not exist any more in any form. Oops. Sorry. Did I just suggest that possibility as somehow likely? Pretty sure it is okay to do that, but I see that you are going red, so let’s continue.

So let’s see. There was Socrates – everyone’s favourite victim of the religious establishment. He was smart enough to leave his last stand until he was barely standing. Yet a last stand it was. He couldn’t put it off any longer: those overbearing religionists had to be shown that they were not in control of his thought, his political will, and his destiny. Unfortunately they were good at the whole “God(s) did it” thing, and this appealed to soldiers and the people, and so a last great act of defiance had to be to rob them of killing him.  Drink poison. Curtain comes down on the last great defiant act of the corruptor of the youth.

Now it must be recognised that Socrates spoke about the gods a fair bit and he and his student Plato cared a lot about religious piety of one kind or another. But then I suspect in those days the distance between agnostic considerations of the possibility of some kind of metaphysical over-dude (or indeed dudes and dudettes)  as creator of everything (although those gods were often not thought responsible for nature) were indistinguishable from philosophy. But this was a different thing to throwing the baby of reason (Plato liked reason – a great deal) out with the bathwater of careful respectful piety by making the latter indisputably preeminent.

So it transpired that Socrates got done for corrupting the youth by encouraging them to reject what could fairly be called the ancient equivalent contemporary right-wing religious politics. Reason says that the gods must be questioned some, and in more ways than one. At the very least those that obsess about or are (self?) appointed to be the representatives of the gods – they should be questioned.

“No”, said the right wing con-shove-atives. “We don’t like you. Now shut up. You’re getting in the way of the emporer's consumption of grapes and village virgins.”

Actually they probably left that last part out. To be fair the King and Emperor don't do too well in the estimation of such beings as Christian anarchists. You know - certain breeds of protestant like Baptists and Amish and so on, and papists that think the protestants are horrible and want the pope to be Emperor. Or is the Pope already an Emperor? Constantine was. He tended to be a bit hard on women too (being an unfavoured wife of Constantine was something worse than a death sentence).

It's all a bit confusing. But regardless of whether or not they like kings, those religionist enthusiasts, as they were called by the eminent Scottish Empiricist philosopher David Hume (who incidentally lost his philosophy career in academia due to the intervention of religious enthusiasts) are none too keen on opposition to the dogma by atheist college philosophy professors.

Then of course there was Hypatia. Hypatia was flayed alive by a religious mob who didn’t like her frontlining science and mathematics and doing what very much looked like worshiping nature. Now worshiping stuff that is fairly plainly real in a basic sense – since you eat it and swim in it and breath it and stuff – is potentially far more attractive than worshiping gods which no one in their right mind has ever claimed to have seen. Again there was politics behind it, but the mob’s ire was raised to murderous intervention by religionist complaints that the philosopher was questioning the value of religion. Uppity bitch! And she won’t let grapes anywhere near her!

You cannot own women and tell them that the gods want them to submit to your bed and breakfast preparation if they all think they belong to nature. Damn you!

These are just a few of many ancient examples. The fervor got even worse in the dark, medieval, and middles ages. Being an unbeliever almost anywhere in Europe during these periods was punishable by extremely deathy death. And we are not even talking about the Spanish Inquisitorial kangaroo court type process or the Saudi Arabian 2015-2016 flogging and execution court type death. This was just the kind that involved the kindly religious townsfolk dragging the dissenter out in the street and hitting them with rocks a lot. Or like the quite treatment meted out on religious philosophical questioner (of geocentricity) Giordano Bruno – burning them very much. Actually – Bruno got a kangaroo type hearing from Cardinal Bellarmine – the same honcho that almost did for Galileo (whom was at least provided with a Devil’s advocate in the form of the priest Foscarini). Then they burned him a lot.

Image result for Giordano Bruno
Bruno
There are numerous other examples – and in their number must be included the multitude of freethinking and sexually liberated women that preferred not to be subsumed under the control of a big smelly man thankyou very much.  All called witches, then drowned, hit with rocks, tortured and drowned, viciously tortured, raped, and burned.  Often tortured, burned and drowned. The religious managed to fit in cutting up into little pieces and lots of nasty mutilation of sexual organs.
One has to wonder whether extreme religious piety might not be connected with – well – some kind of awful obsessive psychosis.

Irreligious and non-submissive pagan women that don’t want to be owned always seem to get it worse. Silly Hypatia! She was a philosopher as well. Talk about asking for it!

So given this rich attitudinal heritage, perhaps it is not that surprising that in 2016 the conservative pious and faithful in the first world are such special sensitive snowflakes about their faith being questioned and their moral impositions being rejected that they go after pesky philosophy professors that ask annoying questions like “If there was a god – where would it come from?”

Because of course: dogma cannot move with the times like philosophy can. Like science can. Dogma cannot change its mind.

If!??

It!!?

Heretic! Burn her!

Oh wait. We can’t burn her anymore. This is a civilized secular society with CAT scans and rocket science and stuff. We’ll look like complete morons. Or like ISIS. Okay. Then FLAME them in social media. And don’t be nice about it. And we can’t kill them quite so much, but we can assassinate their character in the popular media and social media, and write letters to the university and faculty heads. Kill their career! That’ll shut them up. God help us!!

I really want to be on the list.