Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Open Letter to an Old Friend

You were my friend; one of the first and best I ever had.  Now, you are a stranger; a person so far removed from what I thought you were and yet still wrapped in a cocoon that resembles the old you.

On the surface, you are sweet, kind, caring, and never antagonistic; underneath there is a current of bigotry, oppressiveness, and unjustified arrogance - a deep, dark current to which you are oblivious.  Perhaps it is all in my head; perhaps I am just projecting some deep-seated anger onto you, but I am fairly certain that is not the case.

I am sure that within your current circles, you are the epitome of compassion, goodness, and the subject of much praise.  In any group, there are those that shine; those that are the ideal of what they long to be.  But when the charter for the group is built on a misguided sense of truth, when concepts of fairness and justice are no longer viewed with an open mind and heart, but instead viewed through a clouded lens where evil ideas and acts are contorted to look good, when rational thought and evidence are abandoned for unproven, ancient rhetoric; is it desirable to be among the elite of such a group?

You have traded reason and rationality for blind faith.  If it only affected you alone, that would be sad enough, but you propagate your dangerous, prejudiced, ignorant views onto your friends, your family, and let it influence your decisions about the leaders that you elect; thus affecting us all.  You swim in the blindness of your intellectual dishonesty while those around you drown in the wake of your ignorance.  You fail to understand the harm that is caused and you seem not to care; it is a conflicting image to see someone so compassionate and simultaneously so emotionally disconnected from the negative impact of their efforts.

It is difficult to be a friend to such a person.  I imagine that is somewhat akin, though to a lesser degree, to being a close relative of Hitler, bin Laden, or McVeigh; that conflict of loving the person, but despising what they think and do.  What you believe is harmful to others, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, etc., it all causes harm in the end.  Anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-science - my exact opposite.

As you know, I have chosen to end the friendship.  Not because of what you believe, but because of your total unwillingness to examine what you believe in any open and honest way; your lack of acceptance of the fact that you could be wrong, your total blindness to the potential harm, your absolute certainty of your own mental perfection, but mainly because I can't stand to see you like this; tarnishing the memories of the better person that I once knew.  I have tried to stay the course, but you have been more than reluctant to engage in forthright conversation.  I have done all that I know to do.

I may have formally severed the contact, but I cannot sever the feelings; I will always have you in the back of my mind and be hoping that someday a glimmer of light will shine in that dark and dusty head of yours and you will realize that all of my bitching and moaning was because I cared - about you and all of those that your actions affected.  And I hold out a little hope; however irrational it may be, that you will change, at least a little; enough to listen to reason.  Until that day, I wish you well, but know that I will be working against the implementation of your beliefs at every possible turn.

"God" My Nickmame for Ignorance

People are ignorant; we can't help it.  It's not a derogatory term, if used properly; it just acknowledges gaps in our understanding.  There just isn't enough time, desire, or mental capacity to research, comprehend, and remember everything.
Those who are intellectually honest will admit to their ignorance and to varying degrees will prioritize it and try to eliminate it.  Those items that will have a more immediate impact on their lives or are simply of more interest will get moved to the front of the line.  Other topics, deservedly or not, will never be broached again.  For me that would be anything related to NASCAR, the history of Rap, or Lithuanian folk dancing; I am simply not interested.
I don't give my ignorance any special name and try to disguise it or pretend that it doesn't really exist.  If I don't know the answer to your question, I will tell you so.  I am not afraid or embarrassed to admit that I don't know something - a lot of things.
Unfortunately, others do not do the same, in particular, the fundamentalist branch of Christianity (and probably any other religion).  Members of this group often relabel their ignorance and call it "God".  Don't understand how the universe formed? God did it.  Don't understand how evolution works? That's fine, God created everything.  Rather than simply being honest and saying "I don't know" or "I don't understand", they label their ignorance "God" and count this name game as a valid answer to the question.  
Even worse, they expect us to accept it as "the" definitive answer.  Once you have accepted this answer, no amount of evidence can change it.  The evidence must be wrong, corrupted, or misinterpreted because they already have the only answer they will ever need to any question.  Intellectual blindness and dishonesty at its best.
Accepting this non-answer of "God" is dangerous.  It inhibits your ability to evaluate evidence and come to valid conclusions.  Actions taken on misinformation or in despite of information can lead to all sorts of dangers.  How many children die each year because of their parents religious beliefs about medical treatment?  How many people die of AIDS because of lies spread about condoms?  How many unwanted teenage pregnancies occur because of "truths" of what God wants? How many GLBT individuals are bullied and discriminated against because of the answer "God"?  
The so-called Good Book is never questioned or examined against the evidence to see where the ignorance really lies because God is the only "answer" that is needed.  If the evidence contradicts belief, then the evidence always loses.  Fact always fails to move faith; at least for a certain fundamentalist mindset.
I am not asking you to give up your faith cold-turkey, but only to stop labeling your ignorance with an all encompassing non-answer of "God did it" and to apply reason and logic to the evidence.  If God actually exists, he should be able to withstand the scrutiny as well as the exposure of the true mechanisms at work in the universe.  As the one that you claim endowed us with the enquiring minds that we have, he would probably be quite upset that you didn't use yours to its fullest.