Two truths

Can two truths coexist?

Many Christians would say no. No-one can come to the Father except through me. Many atheists would say no, too, because the concept of God is as unlikely as that of a teapot orbiting Jupiter. To me, though, it is possible for someone to be atheist for good reason, and another to be religious for good reason, and for the good reasons of one not to apply to the other. That I do not choose your atheism does not mean that I do not respect it. Christians should know that I know in part; your part may seem inconsistent, because we do not see the whole. And I am irked enough by atheist Quakers saying “When you are as spiritually mature as me you will be non-theist too” to not say something similar.

It is like Athenian v Spartan, Apollo v Dionysus, Enlightenment v Romanticism, the language of a scientific paper v lyric and metaphor. We think differently. That is our strength. Coming to respect and appreciate the other’s way of thinking and expressing thought enriches both.

Or, her experience of Christianity is oppressive, and in liberating herself she has left it, but in mine I have felt the oppression but have also found liberation, so have stayed. For me the liberation is real.

Here is a dispute. I could go through it, showing at every point how I was right- it is tempting. Violet II asked Violet I why she referred us to lessons on communication. Well, if Violet II had taken an atheist stance and I had said the physical evidence of Noah’s Flood is overwhelming and “scientists” who deny it are entrapped by Satan, we would be unlikely to come to concord, or even courteous, respectful disagreement; but here we started with friendly intent, and it would be sad to lose that through misunderstanding.

Though I still assert that being able to respect a way of thought which is not my own is essential to such friendly dialogue.

Violet I referred us to this post on respectful communication. Oh God, not Elevatorgate again? [He was an Asshole! Picking her up in the LIFT? WT-


What it misses out is that we can both be right. Scientific consensus moves on when one expert in a narrow field produces an explanation of evidence which convinces the others. This does not apply to internet debate, where we dialogue through comment boxes rather than peer-reviewed journal articles.

Elevatorgate might be a good illustration, though. It is not strictly a dispute between all men and all women, but between high and low sex drives, or beliefs about casual sex. In the Tube, I saw an advert for holidays in Las Vegas: Come to a place where your accent is an aphrodisiac. Or- Las Vegas! You know about the drink and gambling, but have you heard of the no-strings casual sex!!? I was disgusted, but not everyone will be. Onywye. Elevatorgate.

-He meant well.
-She was repulsed.

He did not force himself on her, but made a proposal. There are arguments why he should not have done so, but feminist objections to slut-shaming make them more difficult to put consistently as absolute objections.

How would I put this as a seventh rule for pretentious ape?

Accept that the other’s contrary belief does not threaten your own. I do not have to convince thetruthisstrangerthanfiction that Noah’s Flood is just a story, to be certain of that myself. That is not quite it:

Accept that a belief you do not share may have value. At least sometimes. Try to find that value??

Or something. You may have better words for it, so do comment.

Guercino, Hersilia Separating Romulus and Tatius

Emotional sceptics

If you are unaware that a man made a pass at Rebecca Wilson in a lift/ “elevator”, you take no interest in sceptic/ rationalist/ atheist fora.

She was a speaker at a conference in Dublin. In the lift, at 4am, a man she had not met said to her,

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?”

This video is her original complaint about it. Later, she wrote this article about the backlash. Here is the New Statesman criticising Richard Dawkins’ comment on a blog post, and here is “Athefist”‘s blog post, two years later, which has got me writing this. Here is a woman who calls some of Watson’s later behaviour “bitchy”- I love the joke about the “vagina licence”, and that was where I found the video. Here is a blog which protests it is “not just about the lift thing”.

Watson objects to being “sexualised”. If he had just wanted a discussion, he could have had it in the bar. Proposing going to a bedroom, just the two of us, is merely sexual: not really interested in the conversation, or her as a person, just as an object for sex play. I think, Ew. Charm me first. Don’t just proposition me like that. Watson’s reaction, and mine, is emotional.

Athefist calls Watson’s arguments “dogma, irrationality, and faith”. Well, how should rationalist atheists talk about emotion?

Discussing it rationally is possible. In some cases, for example flashing, eliciting an emotional response without physical harm to another is sufficient to be a criminal offence. Where do we draw the line? Is it wrong to proposition someone except in a meat-market bar?

Rational thinking can affect emotional responses. The man in the lift did not touch her, and there was no reason to suppose that he would. or would have refused to accept her “No”. These thoughts may reassure.

In the end, though, it is an issue of empathy. Do you feel as Watson does? Do you empathise more with the unnamed man? Should she be safe when alone in a foreign country at 4am from being propositioned for sex? Should he be able to ask her- after all, he did not argue with her refusal?

Watson herself in the video argues by mockery. “It was”- pause, open eyes wide- “a Joke“, she says, about some other matter- if you do not realise that you’re an idiot, obviously. She may be overreacting. “A man tweeted that he’d assault me”. Well, no. He tweeted, “If I run into Rebecca Watson at TAM9 next week I’m totally copping a feel”. That is a joke, not a serious statement of intent. Or so I think. Watson is distressed by the tweet, and here I do not share her distress, so I find reasons why her distress is excessive.

There is so much anger in Athefist’s response. Does he realise that? Dawkins, as well. He is right that she is less subjugated than a Muslim woman- even lots of Christian women– but that is an argument of derision, not a rational argument.

In that first video she was pleased to be on a platform with Prof Dawkins- now, she despises him.