Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Purpose of This Blog

This is in response to a comment by GeoPoet in an earlier thread, here. If the rantings of an evil atheist about religion are going to scorch your ears, you'd probably better not click the "More" button. No, really, stop right there. Don't click that link! Don't --
D'oh! Oh well, you were warned.

GeoPoet Said:

I point these out because I get the impression, wrong perhaps, that there doesn't seem to be much attempt at balance in your blog any more.

I believe we have a fundamental misunderstanding here. The purpose of this blog is not to "be balanced", whatever that means. The purpose of this blog is not to "convert" anyone to atheism, as if that's even possible. It is not to give all religions a chance to have their say. It is not to let all atheists have their say. It is not to give every political party a chance to make their case or to examine every side of every issue.

The purpose of this blog is for me, a discreet individual living in a certain place at a specific time, to talk about my life and my thoughts. I live on a ranch in the middle of Texas, surrounded by animals, while working on Internet entertainment software and drawing super-heroes, surrounded by deeply religious Republicans while I am a liberal Democrat and atheist. So that's what I write about.

The purpose of this blog is for me to write about what I know, about what I experience, about what I believe. I don't write about life in the Australian outback, because I don't live in Australia. I don't write about life as a Hindu because I'm not a Hindu. I don't write about how from one point of view George W. Bush is the greatest president in history, because I don't believe that -- I believe he's an insufferable oaf who has done incalculable damage to the country I love. Writing anything else would be not only very difficult since, as I said, I don't know anything about it, but it would also be a lie. And while I freely admit I make mistakes, I don't lie.

If you're interested in any of those perspectives, I would encourage you to use Google Blog Search to go find a blog that writes about them. That's the whole point of blogging, so discrete and previously hard-to-find voices have an outlet. Trying to turn this space into some kind of bizarre "fair and balanced" newsroom would be as farcical as it would be impossible. Expecting me to write stirring defenses of theism is a waste of expectations, because I'm not a theist and my goal isn't to convince or sway anyone -- it's just to write about what life is like from my own point of view. That's it.

However, I feel there is a need to give the whole picture to those who get a biased picture of the joys of atheism, especially relatives reading this blog.

What you're really worried about, I think, is that someone reading this blog might, just possibly, come to the heretical and horrific conclusion that at least one atheist in the world is not, as they were taught in Sunday school or by their parents, evil or horrible. That at least one atheist is a good person, a nice guy, who loves his family and his animals and who wants to help make the world a better place. That atheism, at least for this one guy, doesn't mean Doom. Not with the goal of "converting" them (whatever that means), but just so they can learn some tolerance, some critical thinking, some awareness that unexamined bigotry -- even if fed to them by a well-intentioned parent -- is not just foolish, but harmful.

Ultimately, holding a specific, individual life up for examination, warts and all, is the only way to defeat bigotry. And at the end of the day, that is the purpose of writing about atheism from time to time in this blog; to refute the bigoted tyranny of the majority with the simple reality of my life and my existence.


Allen said...

What I can't understand is why you won't represent and vehemently defend opinions, beliefs and interests that are not your own. You know, the way all other personal blogs do. ;-)

Just keep doin' what ya' do. Thanks for the link to that Google thing. Something like that could really catch on!

Jeff Hebert said...

Thanks, Allen, you always make me laugh, I appreciate your comments very much.

Taking your advice to heart, tomorrow I begin my Twelve Point Defense of Broccoli. I think it's going to be a real winner.

John said...

I will know Hell has frozen over when Jeffrey posts his masterpiece thesis, "Twelve Reasons Karl Malone Makes Me Feel Like Makin' Love." That's fair and balanced for a Spurs fan!

Jeff Hebert said...

I am fairly certain my hands would fall off as they approached the keyboard were I to attempt such a work of blasphemy, John.

On a related note, it warmed my black and silver heart during the playoffs to hear so many debates about "Is Tim Duncan the greatest power forward of all time?" during which, inevitably, the debaters would snub Karl Malone. Good times.

Anonymous said...

Do you mind hearing different viewpoints? Only if asked? I would think that some posts are "letting off steam" and/or streams of concousness. I always thought of this blog as being given access to your private diary.

Jeff Hebert said...

I'm always happy to hear other viewpoints, absolutely, especially well-thought-out ones like you, Johnny, and Denise bring to the table.

My general policy when posting on someone else's blog is to act like I'm a guest in their home. I feel free to speak my mind, especially on a topic I feel strongly about, but at the end of the day it's their house, you know? I wouldn't walk in, kick the dog, insult their wife, tell them their couch is ugly, eat all the food, then bug out.

Well, I did all that once, but it was a full moon.

A blog (at least personal ones like this) are like a private diary, but you can't escape the fact that it's being published publicly. The author must be aware of that, and must be ready to deal with the thoughts and opinions of the reader, otherwise he or she is seriously deluded.

I am trying not to post rants any more. Jimmy McGarry (my brother in law for those not in the clan) made a very good point a few months ago that writing about what I believe and feel is more interesting than writing screeds against what someone else believes. On the "deeper" or more personal subjects, I'm trying to constrain my writing to what it's like, for instance, to be an atheist when it comes to situations where religion is usually called on (like plane trips, visiting someone at Christmas, that sort of thing), or what it's like to be a computer geek trying to shear a sheep after having been in New York City the day before.

I have a lot of thoughts about other aspects of religion in general and Christianity in particular, but I think there's probably more than enough discussion of those things already on the Net. My contribution wouldn't really add much to the body of knowledge, as it were, whereas my personal experience is more unique.

But yes, I think one of the really great things about writing on the Internet is that the author and reader can engage in a real-time dialog. That's something no newspaper can replicate, and radio call-in shows only in the most superficial way. If I refused to listen to opposing viewpoints I'd be shutting out one of the things that makes this whole thing so valuable.

Having said that, the comments I find most helpful and relevant are those that also explain the commenter's thoughts or beliefs, rather than being presented as "You're evil and here's why." Jimmy McGarry's observation is as relevant to comments as it is to the poster -- avoid attacks, speak from personal experience, and strive to explain yourself rather than tear down the target.

I hope that makes sense. It certainly is not my intent to strangle off all opposing viewpoints, that would be dreadfully dull. If I want to hear myself drone on, I can close the bathroom door and start ranting.

Geopoet said...

Sigh... Obviously your extreme reply is not what was meant by my reference to "balance". The lack of balance is actually in your own views and statements that you are making (often in rather absolute and proselytizing terms), for all the world to read.

Thus for example, if you were to say to the world "George Bush is murdering children", don't get upset if someone refutes it. If you say the country is economically falling apart, but ignore all the contrary statistical evidence, someone is going to pick up on it. If you were to say "science has proven there's no God" or "Jesus never actually lived", you better not be surprised when a little truth gets thrown back at you. It's what you should expect when you have a blog. Otherwise you should have just put it in a diary.

One last one (which actually applies), if you continue to say that anybody who disagrees with atheists (or any specific moral or religious or political belief system) are "bigots", you had best expand the blog space for dissident responses. It is inflammatory and ludicrous to say that disagreeing with a philosophy, religion, political system or moral position is bigotry. I know this scare factor works for some, but it also erroneously shuts down dialogue on the real topic.

This brings us to the heart of the issue. Your noble cause (e.g., in the support of atheism) appears to say that "tolerance" is the supreme virtue in your world - all values, all beliefs, all moral systems - are equal and should be accepted and applied. You thus pretend to take a higher moral road, which is ironic. Of course many will disagree with such a philosophy - no surprise most will have a concern regarding the effects of such humanist philosophies; even you have issue with certain belief systems (I don't think you want Hamas running our government, and I don't think you'd agree that children should marry, for example). In calling people names, I suggest that you distinguish between differences in values versus actual injustice regarding individual rights in society; I think we both agree the latter is wrong; the former is not.

"Bigoted tyranny" sounds frightening indeed, but it doesn't exist only because you say it does. Tolerance and critical thinking goes both ways. There is power in words, let's use them wisely.

Jeff Hebert said...

Do you read the words you write? Do you stop and think "How would I take this if it were directed at me, or at theists in general, or at Catholics in particular?"

You need to, because I don't think you're really hearing how you sound. I call you a bigot because when I read your words, that's what they scream at me. I do not take that same feeling from what others have said who have commented here disagreeing with me -- sometimes vociferously. You come off as a bigot, not because of your disagreeing with me, but because of what you actually say. I might be overly sensitive, but that's how it comes off, as rude, insensitive, intolerant, and just about as opposite from the way Christ lived his life as I can imagine.

I'm going to leave it at that, because as I said above, I consider commenters on this blog to be like guests in my home.

GeoPoet said...


I appreciate your honest feelings, and it is truly regrettable on my part that I have made you feel that way, exactly the opposite of what I intended. For I honestly and truthfully thought I was being as respectful as possible in offering an alternative view for reflection and personal growth, but purposely trying to avoid offending anyone personally, especially my loving brother whom I cherish and respect. To respond to your question though, your anti-religious posts ARE often received by me a personal attack as well, so it is apparently very difficult (especially in writing) to separate generalization from personification; our sensitivity levels may thus demonstrate some family similarities to our detriment.

Yet, it is the effect that's important, and since I have obviously offended you (and apparently continue to do so), then I have failed to show the depth of my intense love for you, for others and for Christ. Everything I have offered in defense of Christ, Catholicism and traditional values I stand by. However, at this point I am a bit shocked and obviously confused in how to be more articulate and effective in the future. It is maybe best that I discontinue posting to your blog until such time that I figure out a way for our discourse to be more constructive and to be an example worthy of my Lord. In the meantime, I would emphasize to you again of my pride, my joy and my love for the gift that you are in my life.



Jeff Hebert said...

You're welcome to post here, or not, as you wish. Everyone is. I'm not kicking anyone out. I can see how a break for a breather might be good for all concerned, and if that's what you want to do I'll understand. You're welcome back at any time, however.

Acroamatic said...

It seems that geopoet is over-sensitive, as his last post proves. It's one thing to be able to respond--even spiritedly--to positions, like Jeff's, that contradict one's own. It's another to worry about the whole of one's metaphysical ego-supports being attacked and lashing out in anger. I don't get to read really often, but I disagree with A LOT of what Jeff says on religion, politics and civilization. But, let's work on articulating what we do believe and sharpening our views, without defensiveness. (Otherwise, we give Jeff more ammunition--lol!)

Liz said...

Amen, brother!

(Or whatever the atheist equivalent to that is :D)

I grew up as an atheist in Texas. Even worse, a transplanted yankee atheist. I might as well have been the antichrist. So frankly, I enjoy your perspective. It kind of reminds me why I'm glad I live in New England now :)