Thursday, October 11, 2007

Of books, beliefs, and non-beliefs

I really wish like hell that my mother would stop watching Fox News, as controlling as that sounds. Amend that--she can watch all she wants, but I really really wish she'd stop trying to engage me in conversations about what she sees on their morning show and stuff! Just because my brother and I once took time to be seen in the crowd by their window--so she could see us--doesn't mean we endorse it! I don't like any kind of chatter in the morning anyway, not on radio or TV. All I want is a quick traffic/weather update before I leave, and then I turn on music, just music. But Fox and Friends marries the typical banter with whipping up right-wing outrage among their viewers.

My mother is a very smart woman, but she'll believe their hype about Muslims or illegal aliens or towns that want to ban Christmas or whatever. I think this week's target is atheists, because Air America dared to let them have an hour a week for discussion. (As opposed to the many thousands of 24-hour preaching and gospel stations nationwide, the fact that many secular radio stations yield an hour or two of their Sunday mornings to churches and gospel music programs, etc.) Also, there's a movie based on an atheist book coming out close to Christmas. I reminded her, "You do know that your son and both your daughter-in-laws are atheists, right?" That made her speechless for almost a full minute, which is something for her. It's like Dorkfish and I have to remind her, she's got some of the right-wingers' favorite targets--sexual and religious minorities--in her very own family, and we're not like Fox News' commentators or her friends' e-mail forwards portray us.

I told her that none of us care for Christopher Hitchens, the atheist show's first guest, either. ("Mom, he'll say any damn thing for attention. He wrote this column a while back about how women can't ever be funny.") I reminded her that she's always been more free marketeer than social conservative--"It's what they think people want, and the marketplace will determine whether there's more or less of it. Besides, aren't atheists allowed to see movies they might enjoy in the winter, too? They have to listen to Christmas carols in the store, you know." It makes me shake my head. It makes me hope I'm not that impressionable, though I have my own sources of outrage and subscribe to my own professional outrage-mongers in my e-mail. Well, she'll do her best to correct me and shake her head over me, too. I'm just doing as she taught me.

L'Ailee and I went on a book-buying spree. We're going to share all four, except for the Food Snob's Dictionary, which is all mine. (I actually don't think I'm a food snob--I just hold out for better than Purina People Chow--but that's what the people who I consider food snobs say. :-) They all contain ideas that interest us, and excerpts or interviews with the authors sold us.

The first is called--take a deep breath, now--Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and Other Boneheaded Bureaucrats Are Turning America Into a Nation of Children. It is by David Harsanyi, a columnist for the Denver Post. Harsanyi's parents escaped Hungary in 1969 to get away from repression; I smiled in recognition, because my great-great-grandmother was Hungarian and taught me a sort of instinctual libertarianism when I was little. She wouldn't have liked things like Mayor Bloomberg's banning trans fats, either. L'Ailee and I get disgusted at Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Spitzer's nannyish ways quite often. People come to NYC so they don't have to deal with other people minding their business for them. We get tired of tag being banned on playgrounds and smoking being banned in apartments. We hate "Click It or Ticket," and don't need the threat of fines to wear seatbelts--just seatbelts designed so that short women can wear them without getting friction burns on our necks, which would be a very free-market solution. We don't think freedom's worth anything unless you have the freedom to screw up and fall on your own ass, or just to make decisions that others wouldn't. Townhall.com isn't a website I like--it's as ultra-conservative as Faux News--but it does have an interview with Harsanyi about his book, and I totally recommend that y'all take a look.

Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility posits that environmentalists can accomplish more by being optimistic about humans and our abilities to create solutions to problems and adapt to change. They argue that traditional environmentalist rhetoric is much like fundamentalist religion, in that it suggests that we humans are born terrible, will die terrible, and need lots of unsolicited help from a select few humans who are not quite as terrible as the rest of us in order to pull ourselves up from the moral quagmire. I have the feeling that Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger would agree with my elderly Floridian friend, the one I recently quoted, who said it's about keeping the earth a good place for humans rather than "saving the earth." L'Ailee and I have cried (her especially at the news coming from the Arctic Circle, the part of the world she came from) and felt hopeless. It's not a good feeling, and it doesn't lead to solutions, either, only despair. Salon.com published an excerpt this week. I particularly loved this paragraph: "From beginning to end, we humans are as terrestrial as the ground on which we walk. We are neither a cancer on, nor the stewards of, the earth. We are neither destined to go extinct nor destined to live in harmony. Rather, we are the first species to have any control whatsoever over how we evolve."

Nica Lalli, another cute and cuddly atheist who lives in Brooklyn, recently wrote about the diversity of atheists and why it's important to ask, not tell, them what they think for USA Today. She doesn't believe that religion "poisons everything". She just wants the right to her conscience. Her memoir is called Nothing: Something to Believe In. I like the title. L'Ailee grabbed it--she loves that atheists are speaking out more, but wants something less angry and more positive. This could be it.

I'm very much a Pagan, and I don't want religious discussion to become a matter of fundamentalists versus atheists. I see much potential for polarization. Then again, the religious right has been so noisy for so long, and now we're having to deal with fundamentalist Muslims, too. (Not just terrorists, but taxi drivers who won't let you transport alcohol, for instance.) So I'm pretty much for anyone--atheist, liberal Christian or Muslim, Pagan, whatever--who lets out a loud "yop!" when that big old elephant is about to crush them. I relate to the atheists I know in many ways, especially those who also have fundamentalist Christianity in their backgrounds. In the ones I know, I see a desire to help others (because prayer won't do it), a respect for science, and a need to really get to know the world around them, which are all things that I rather like. However, all I have to do is look around, and I see beings infinitely bigger, smarter, and more creative than myself at work. I'm grateful for people who try to make peace and make room for various belief systems.

Incidentally, the "cute and cuddly" thing stems from a joke at Yahoo! Answers, after lots of anti-atheist insults.

Link time, in case you can stand to read any more!

Very, very sad article about Russian immigrant fundamentalists making life miserable for gays out west. L'Ailee's lesbian cousin in Oakland doesn't feel comfortable around most of her fellow Russian immigrants, and L'Ailee has noticed a lot more social conservatism among new Russian immigrants. Unfortunately, some LGBT Russians come to *escape* homophobia.

DespairWear.com sells the meanest T-shirt for bloggers *ever*.

What a smart, grown-up bisexual thinks of Tila Tequila's bisexual dating show. (I'd rather watch Torchwood.)

Wonderful, touching, sad NYT article about ageing while being gay. The picture alone is a tearjerker.

As close as you can get to having a pet panda.

Speaking of Halloween costumes, TopFive.com suggests a few that will get you very little candy.

Finally, Diwali's coming, and you don't have to celebrate it to enjoy the desserts...or the Office Diwali episode, for that matter!

4 comments:

alan said...

I don't want to be anywhere near Faux News when their Karma finds them!

alan

Carie said...

I was reading an artical the other day about hugging a panda and I thought about you :) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21197492/

I love buying new books...people here think I am wierd because I have way way over 3000 books, and I reread them lol and that my daughter has twice as many as me and she to rereads them lol...I have every kind of book, but I love to buy books on subjects I know little to nothing about...I am going to be looking for some of the books you have mentioned :)

I am also gonna bbuy the new post secret one lol love those books :)

The Watcher said...

What irritates me the most about Fox and Friends is their cheerful, upbeat portrayal. It's like, they're pretending to be Good Morning America or NBC Today, but there's this evil undercurrent running through all the cheerfulness. It's really grating. I get the same feeling as when I look at the KKK's kids pages.

alan said...

After you sent me those links, I'll be going to that movie more than once...

In case you don't make it back to my comment; I fell in love with Kevin Smith when I saw "Dogma". I fell even harder when I found out that when "the church" was protesting it in his home town, not only did he show up and carry a sign, but made sure he got on the news camera footage as well...

alan