The Thing About Indoctrination…

I’ve been thinking a lot about indoctrination lately.  There is often a push to keep certain religious teachings out of school, because people don’t want their kids learning about the Quran (it’s most often the Quran that’s being complained about) while those same people complain that the reason we have problems is that we “took God out of the schools.” It’s shit that I see online a ton.  It doesn’t make much sense to me, it feels disingenuous, like “Hey, we don’t want the kids being indoctrinated with your fake God, but by our real God instead.”

The other big ‘indoctrination’ thing that people keep talking about is the ‘fact’ that kids don’t say the pledge of allegiance any more in school.  Now, I have seen this a ton online, but have tried to research it, and come up with no evidence that it’s actually true.  I mean, I went to Catholic school for the last 8 years of grade school, so things are a bit different, but I haven’t heard anything about “you know I asked my kid about the pledge, and they don’t say it.”  My own kid is too young to be saying it either way.  But this got me to thinking about the pledge of allegiance, and how it’s kind of an intense piece of patriotic indoctrination.  We are (or should be if you believe the people saying it’s not done anymore) having our kids “pledge allegiance to the flag,” I will be honest and say I get the flag as a symbol, but have never gotten the level of obsession people give the symbol; “and to the United States of America,” in theory, assuming the country does the right thing, this isn’t problematic, if you believe that the country does the right thing, and that if it doesn’t you believe that children (or adults who’ve been told it since they were children) will be able to disconnect that ‘pledge of their allegiance’; “and to the Republic, for which it stands,” alright, now that I can agree with; “One nation under God,” you can tell that’s been added after because it just doesn’t fit the rest of it; “Indivisible,” I’m assuming we’re talking about the country and not God on this one, and so I have no objection to it; “with Liberty and Justice for all,” now only a real asshole could disagree with that part.

So on the whole I think the pledge is fine on it’s face, but it is weird to be pushing it into kids heads when they’re so impressionable.  Why not just say “it’s an imperfect system, but hopefully if we keep working together, we can keep improving it,” which inspires conversation and dialogue as to how that can happen, and explain the process of democracy.  A rote pledge isn’t helpful, it’s too religious.  It requires no thought, and when I think of rote things you’re “supposed” to say or think, I tend to think there is someone who doesn’t want you to really think about it.

Like I said, I went to Catholic school, and was raised Catholic, and there was something that I learned fairly early on, and that was that questions, even earnest ones, tend to be the enemy of organized religion.  Then as I grew up, I started realizing it wasn’t just religion, it was any organization, with power, didn’t want me or anyone else to think or to question.

I have not considered myself a Catholic in a long time, but on occasion when getting into a conversation with non-Catholic Christians, I’ve caught myself saying “us Catholics” or “as a Catholic,” because it’s ingrained in me in a way that despite not believing it has (at least in part) become part of my identity.  That’s fucked up.

There’s a degree to which it’s impossible to not leave some imprint on kids, I know that.  I have a 2 year-old who loves superheroes and Star Wars, and so I cannot think that he just came to that conclusion on his own, but as he grows, I have to try to let him explore outside of it because I want him to be a fully realized human with his own thoughts, and feelings, and not just a little echo-clone for myself.

Let’s teach kids how to think, and not what to think, and I’m sorry, but teaching kids rote is teaching them WHAT to think, whether it’s the Pledge of Allegiance, or the fact that when I go into a Catholic Mass I can do all the prayers on autopilot (except for the new ones to trick all the Christmas/Easter Catholics, you know like Christ would do) it’s harmful.

The way to do that is to say “I like living in the US because…” and try to be fact based, and fair, or “I believe Jesus is the Savior because…” and try to do the same.  If the ideas hold up, they shouldn’t need to be force fed, and I think we’ll get a better version of patriotism, or religion if people come to them by natural conclusion, based on merit.

Awful Arguments

Do you remember when you had “vocabulary” as a subject in school? I remember, that we had to learn the spelling, and meaning of different words, and in first or second grade, the teacher told us that we couldn’t define a word with itself.  If I was asked what a shirt was, I couldn’t say “a shirt,” I had to say “a piece of clothing, made to cover the top half of your body,” or something similar.  Not too hard of a concept.

For some reason, people haven’t retained this idea, and what we get is circular logic.  It’s infuriating, because I’m seeing more and more of this circular logic pop up in discussions, and arguments.  The reason I’m writing about this, today specifically, is that last night I saw some of dumbest arguing I’ve ever seen, and I wanted to talk about it.

Circular logic, can make the argument of someone who’s premise I agree with, seem completely ridiculous and unintelligent to me, and if the opposing side has a more thought out argument it can make me think about the other side, no matter how much I disagree with the premise.  A couple of months ago, I wrote about Tomi Lahren, and Ben Shapiro being opposite ends of the arguing ability spectrum, and it’s kind of what I’m talking about now.

So, the argument last night, started when a friend of mine said, “I’m sick of this God out of schools shit. If you want to brainwash your kid do it your damn self. Don’t you know not everyone has your same beliefs,” on his Facebook status.  Of course, the pro-God arguments came in like a flood, and while some were reasonable, or were at least non-combative, there was one that struck me as particularly unintelligent, “So here is one for you all!?? If Jesus ain’t real why are so many Christians getting killed and persecuted for our belief? ? And why does the devil want to hide the truth from people if God ain’t real?? Think about it folks. Jesus loves you and died for your unbelief. Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are saying. All i know is i ain’t no monkey and didn’t come from a Ape. How ridiculous does that sound. Truth can make people upset it’s in our hearts.”

Now, I’ve heard very good arguments in both defense of God, and in defense of atheism, but this is certainly not one of them, but you can tell that this man doesn’t understand that.  It’s like a lesson in how not to argue.  So I want to break it down line by line, because really if everyone were able to make better arguments, and think critically, perhaps things would get better, or at the very least we’d be able to have intelligent conversations, so let’s start from the beginning of that statement:

“So here is one for you all!?? If Jesus ain’t real why are so many Christians getting killed and persecuted for our belief?”

Alright, so is this circular logic, not exactly, but it is poor logic, based on a hugely flawed premise.  Many people, of many different belief systems have been persecuted, that does not at all mean that they are correct.  In fact, some of these belief systems are in conflict with each other, so it would only be logical that they cannot all be right.  Now this point doesn’t disprove Jesus, or Christians either, it effectively provides no evidence or proof, and should offer no persuasion whatsoever. Now to the next line:

“And why does the devil want to hide the truth from people if God ain’t real?? Think about it folks.”

I think this is a kind of circular logic that only seems to happen regularly with the God/no-God argument.  In this way of thinking, the person is aware that their opponent or conversation partner does not believe in God, but for some reason thinks he or she does believe in the devil.  Now, I’m not an atheist, but every single atheist I know, believes there is no devil either.  It’s not that they think the exact same scenario is true, with the exception of God.  They’re not imagining Heaven run democratically by angels; they believe that this life as we know it, and in some cases science we have yet to explain, is all that there is.  No God, no devil, no angels, no demons, no Heaven, no Hell.  So, while this argument may not appear to be ‘circular logic’ at face value, it is in this manner. The assumption that the atheist concedes there is a devil, and the fact that the devil is trying to disprove God must in fact mean there is one, is in itself circular logic.

“Jesus loves you and died for your unbelief. Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are saying.”

Telling us part of story, whether it is a true story or not, does not prove the story to be true.  Repeating the reason Jesus died adds nothing to this argument, except for condescension, which leads into the second half of that line.  This isn’t at all an appeal to the argument, but rather a manipulation.  If you want to pray for non-believers, go ahead, I think there is a level of arrogance to that, but ultimately that’s your business, but posting your prayers into Facebook makes no sense.  Do you think God’s gonna ‘follow’ this conversation?  This is nothing more than virtue signalling, and perhaps an attempt to manipulate any doubt the atheist might have into feeling ashamed of his or her non-belief.

“All i know is i ain’t no monkey and didn’t come from a Ape. How ridiculous does that sound.”

While I wholeheartedly disagree with this line, it is the closest thing to a coherent argument being offered.  He (the author of this response is a male) actually offers something outside of the Bible, a secondary source.  Whether he knows it or not, he’s making reference to The Origin of the Species, and the theory of evolution.  I think there is an overwhelming preponderance of evidence in favor of evolution, but I can understand why if you don’t know much, this may seem illogical.  So, verdict on this one, I disagree with the point, but I’ll at least call it a point. Lastly:

“Truth can make people upset it’s in our hearts.”

Again, more virtue signalling, more condescension, no actual point, nothing new introduced, nothing new examined.  This is just a shitty comment to feel superior.

 

So what is my point? Like I have mentioned many times, I’m not an atheist, (in all fairness, I don’t identify with any particular religion either) but I’ve heard people make arguments that can make a lot of sense, on both sides, and I feel as if I learn more when I hear them, regardless of side, and I feel like I’m more complete.  When I see arguments like this (and it’s not just religious, unfortunately there are a ton of these dumb arguments in real life, and on the internet) we don’t gain anything, and you realize that the arguers are unwilling to hear anything.  There is no growth on either side, regardless of how great the opponents argument may be.  It’s stagnation at best.

So how do we fix this?  Honestly, I’m not sure that we can.  I have had these conversations on a variety of topics, and I say to people “no think about what you’re saying, trace it back a few steps, if you think Z, what was Y? If you then realize Y backs up Z, then what was W?  But the problem is, whether you believe in God or not, (or gun-control, or abortion, or the death penalty) and you’re using circular logic like this, it is likely that you have been brainwashed, regardless of your side.  Circular logic is what people often use when parroting back beliefs that were ingrained into them, and so they don’t require logic, or thought, they just believe, and that’s the opposite of intellectual, or honestly, spiritual growth.

I’ll leave you with a quote that one of the God believers in the conversation said, that I thought wasn’t necessarily a great argument for God, but was a great argument for thought and discussion:

“i have read the bible numerous time over my life and each time i get something more out of it, it told me to question everything, EVERYTHING!! it also says that one man sows, another man waters, but God provides the increase. Which from my understanding means don’t force your beliefs on someone, but we can have conversations about it and maybe we will both learn something,”

The Jesus/Christian Paradox

This post, despite it’s title, should not be offensive to anyone regardless of religious affiliation, or lack of religious affiliation.  So keep reading!

There is a thing that I’ve found myself referring to a lot lately, but I came up with the idea a long time ago.  I refer to it as “the Jesus/Christian Paradox.”  What it is, is when someone starts to get backlash, because their followers/supporters/fans are assholes, and not based on their own merit or lack thereof.  If you listen to most of what Jesus said, it’s pretty non-controversial, and while there are many amazing Christians, there are a few that are so irritating, that they make us not want to associate with the term anymore.  It’s not really fair to Christianity on the whole, but we feel the need to go far away from it. Like the Westboro Baptist Church, they’re just so far from what we consider reasonable, that we want to disconnect.

When I first came up with this concept, it was after having spent a few years disliking Joss Whedon.  For a while, I thought he was a talentless hack of a writer, and then I watched some more of his shows/films and realized, he is a talented writer, but I hate his obnoxious fans who would tell me how he’s the most brilliant and innovative writer because he killed Buffy.  He wasn’t the problem and it took me a while to realize that.

In the last year, I’ve referred to Boston sports teams (and I stand by it) as being guilty of this Jesus/Christian Paradox—most sports teams might be.  Then there was Oprah, after the week of talking about whether or not she’d be running for President, I had to explain to several people who hated her for it, that she hadn’t said anything, it was her fans that were driving the hype.

Now, it’s Black Panther.  I just watched a video about how the hype is dampening excitement for some.  I think the creator of the video does a pretty fair job of not blaming Marvel or the cast and crew for the issues.  It falls onto the fans, followers, supporters, whatever the term is for them.

We need to properly advocate for what we think is best, and I think being over-zealous, becomes a massive turn off for most, and ends up having the opposite result intended.  Jesus said things that can be appreciated whether you’re Jewish, or Buddhist, or Atheist, but we really don’t see that in modern society.  Christianity doesn’t seem to mean following Christ’s ideas any more, and is in many cases a status symbol, and a necklace you wear, while you attack others and use him as the excuse.  The Patriots play football well, whether you love them or hate them, they’re pretty good at the game, and for the most part the really obnoxious team members get weeded out, and they’re probably a bunch of otherwise average guys, but we think of the fans crying when they lose, or being assholes when they win (btw, the reaction I saw on Facebook after their Super Bowl loss was better than any other experience I’ve ever had with their fans).

So, try not to judge someone (or something) by it’s fans, but by its content.  At the same time, fans, try not to be obnoxious.  Ok?

Roadtrips, USA

This past weekend, my wife, son and I drove from where we live in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina, to Nashville Tennessee.  We had both been wanting to go since we moved down here last year, and neither of us had even been to Tennessee, and so we decided to go.

One of the things, that we’ve both noticed when driving around the country on various road trips, is the difference in culture is sometimes observable from the highway.  It’s apparent in what you can see immediately off of the highway, as well as the billboards that line the high way north and south, east and west.

In Massachusetts, where I’m from originally, the billboards are kind of boring.  You might see an ad for the local radio station, or depending on where you are, you may see one for a celebrity doing a show at Mohegan Sun Casino.  There isn’t much beyond that.

Down south however, there are three very distinct categories of billboards, and sometimes they’re very close to each other.  The three categories are strip club/porn shop billboards, gun billboards, and Jesus billboards.  The reason these are funny isn’t that they’re particularly funny topics in general, but the way they’re done.

First there are the strip club/porn shop billboards.  These are funny, because often times they’re trying to allude to more than they seem to be allowed to say.  We passed a sign that literally said “Sexy Stuff, Exit 390” (I don’t know the real exit number).  We also saw one that said “lingerie, adult DVDs, and vibes.”  I’ll be honest, neither of us would have guessed that if they couldn’t put the word ‘vibrator,’ that they could put the word ‘vibe.’  Would have been great to see “lingerie, adult DVDs and dilds,” but I’m guessing that there is some kind of weird double standard on that.  Or perhaps it would be that not enough letters or syllables were removed.

The second category are the gun billboards, and typically these I don’t notice as much, but my wife pointed out a few really interesting ones, including one claiming to have “machine gun rentals,” which I think regardless of your stance on the right to own guns, this is some weird wording.

Lastly are the Jesus billboards, some of these are really simple and reasonable “Jesus is the answer” types billboards, which honestly, you may disagree with the premise, but I still think it’s inoffensive by itself.  But there are other billboards which seem to be much more odd.  Lots of ones that seem like answers to questions unasked, like “…And you think God doesn’t work in mysterious ways!” Along with a small evolutionary chart with a red circle and slash through it.  WTF?

Anyway, the big thing that I find interesting about these billboards, isn’t them as standalone signs, but their proximity to each other.  If you were an alien, driving through a highway in the south, you would think that Jesus must have been obsessed with strippers, porn, and guns.  There are numerous spots in which your visual landscape, while sitting still, consists of all three elements, and it’s bizarre.  Especially when you see signs from miles away, off in the woods, elevated above the treeline, declaring that Pilots, or Loves, or any other big soft-fonted truck stop company has “Unleaded $2.49/Diesel $2.94.”

Last thing that I want to mention, and that is that one of the “Adult Stores” (because they don’t call themselves porn shops.  That’s like the ‘gentleman’s club’ of porn shops.) that we passed, was a drive-thru.  I must say, I’m really intrigued to how it that works.  “Um, yes.  I’ll have a number four, and a tube of the warming gel.  —*whispers* What do you want honey?— Oh, and a number twelve with a can of whipped cream.  And um… Super size it.”  Notice I didn’t make the obvious joke of one of the menu items being sixty nine, because I have standards, and honestly how big would their menu have to be outside the building to have that many items?

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you all about what I saw along the highway all weekend.  What’s the craziest billboard you’ve ever seen? Tell me in the comments.