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November 26, 2011

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Jeremy M. Barker

Do you remember "That's My Bush," the great Trey Parker/Matt Stone satire of Bush pre-9/11? They had a great satire of this tedious finding common ground thing about abortion, when Bush tries to facilitate a dialogue between militant feminists and the only abortion survivor in history. It was brilliant.

Sam Thielman

Well put. The wildly misguided quest for "common ground" is one of the bigger problems with the weirdly monolithic nature of Western culture (which is itself a product of corporatization, I suspect). I lived in Nairobi, Kenya for a little while and had no problem conversing with Muslims, atheists, practicing Jews, whoever - all folks who disagreed very strongly on the most fundamental level with my Protestant Christianity. Instinctively, though, no one ever felt the need to assert that there was some kind of shared philosophical terrain to which we could all retreat.

Why?

Because it's so fucking condescending! It implies that there's some kind of overarching system that supersedes all faiths and thus negates them, providing the right answer to all the questions posed and answered (theoretically) by every belief system. My favorite example of this is this question - and I hear it a lot: "Look, can't you just admit that all religious beliefs are unprovable and therefore equally valid?" Of fucking course I can't! I wouldn't be a Christian if I thought my beliefs were intellectually dissimilar from other modes of thought and should be relegated to church services and private devotions.

The best we can do in a world where we have to live side-by-side (digitally if not literally) with people who don't share our philosophies, is to show our neighbor the courtesy of not treating him like a sub-literate imbecile because of his religious beliefs (or lack thereof), and to trust that he has some way to address scientific and ethical considerations that comports with his belief system. I am as concerned about whether my atheist friends have a sound basis for their ethical judgments as they are concerned about whether I think Jesus killed the dinosaurs, believe you me. Christians were certainly the first to the party when it comes to starting fights with other faiths, but the New Atheists, as you rightly point out, are demonstrating a lot of the same unpleasant characteristics.

This has been your thin-skinned rant for Thursday, Dec. 15.

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