Eye for an Eye

#2
For those interested in taking part in the project, here is come valuable information from the Westboro Baptist church website:

http://www.godhatesfags.com/wbcinfo/aboutwbc.html

WBC engages in daily peaceful sidewalk demonstrations opposing the homosexual lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth. We display large, colorful signs containing Bible words and sentiments, including: GOD HATES FAGS, FAGS HATE GOD, AIDS CURES FAGS, THANK GOD FOR AIDS, FAGS BURN IN HELL, GOD IS NOT MOCKED, FAGS ARE NATURE FREAKS, GOD GAVE FAGS UP, NO SPECIAL LAWS FOR FAGS, FAGS DOOM NATIONS, THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS, FAG TROOPS, GOD BLEW UP THE TROOPS, GOD HATES AMERICA, AMERICA IS DOOMED, THE WORLD IS DOOMED, etc.
Now, Arouet has challenged me to take a little deeper look as to what the Westboto Baptist church is trying to accomplish ( it should be noted that Arouet is in no way endorsing WBC in raising this challenge. He's merely using it as an example to make a point ).

I understand that the WBC is attempting to paint help the rest of us understand their interpretation of biblical creed. Their intention seem pure in that they are attempting to share to the world the dangers of inter-sex love. While this is something that would arguably make sense if you were attempting to explain it in a way that took into assumption that they were good and honest people, it doesn't apply when one takes an honest look at the information at hand.

For one, the word fag is used in its derogatory nature. Instead of explicitly stating their disagreement with homosexuality, they use words that are directly insulting and display no small amount of malice towards people. In fact, the fact that they claim that AIDs cures ' fags' via slow and painful death, and that they actually thank ' God ' for forcing another human being to die slowly and painfully implies that there's something menacing and truly rotten in their mentality. For instance, many instances in biblical literature preach tolerance and forgiveness, regardless of sins committed. Examples are as follows:

Matthew 6:14-15
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Daniel 9:9
The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;

Matthew 26:28
This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

If the WBC, in its words and actions, preach Old School Biblicalism they would be aware of these verses and act accordingly. This implies the forgiveness and acceptance of ' fags '. However, because their actions directly conflict with their words, we have good reason to question their intentions.

Their actions demonstrate a pure and unrelenting hate against a certain demographic of people. The fact that they wish to impose a painful and horrific death upon people whose lifestyles they don't agree with should not be misconstrued as having ' good intentions '.
 
#3
Now, Arouet has challenged me to take a little deeper look as to what the Westboto Baptist church is trying to accomplish ( it should be noted that Arouet is in no way endorsing WBC in raising this challenge. He's merely using it as an example to make a point ).
I'm heading off to bed now but just to be clear: the challenge is not quite to look a little deeper at what the WBC is trying to accomplish. The challenge, more specifically, is to try and figure out how the WBC likely see themselves from their perspective. To try and get in their heads.

Secondly, the challenge is to try and imagine how the WBC would see you - again from their perspective.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#4
What's the organized skeptical movement for? We know proponents are faced with existential horrors - biological robot, oblivion, lack of meaning - and skeptics are faced with fear of the unexplained and existential unease of a universe that doesn't necessarily conform to laws.

Yet proponents don't seem to be trying to stop skeptics from propagating their materialist faith and its attendant beliefs & miracles.

But it seems that outside of select situations in which skeptics fighting dangerous superstitions & fraud, there's a definite scorn (masking fear?) and attempt to kill off any suggestion there's more to existence that than clockwork. I've noted before that protecting the public against financial fraud and politicians' logical fallacies would be far more useful than the exiles and fatwahs.
 
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#5
I like to think the Westboro Baptist Church are an extreme situationist art group, pointing out the absurdity of fundamentalism by parodying it. It certainly bears scant resemblance to New Testament scripture. Westboro is to Christianity what Dr Frankenstein is to the Medical Ethics Committee.
 
#6
What's the organized skeptical movement for? We know proponents are faced with existential horrors - biological robot, oblivion, lack of meaning - and skeptics are faced with fear of the unexplained and existential unease of a universe that doesn't necessarily conform to laws.

Yet proponents don't seem to be trying to stop skeptics from propagating their materialist faith and its attendant beliefs & miracles.

But it seems that outside of select situations in which skeptics fighting dangerous superstitions & fraud, there's a definite scorn (masking fear?) and attempt to kill off any suggestion there's more to existence that clockwork. I've noted before that protecting the public against financial fraud and politicians' logical fallacies would be far more useful than the exiles and fatwahs.
That's the point I was trying to make in the other thread.
 
#7
Ok, I'm not going to pretend to have done a ton of research but I did spend some time on their site and will take a shot at my challenge. Given that I haven't spent more than an hour or two reading their material I don't expect all of what I have written to be accurate, and I'm sure there are nuances I've missed and may have simply interpreted some parts completely wrong. I also haven't studied them closely enough to get a firm sense of their style - I've tried to be accurate re: the content but the style is simply my creative flair! :)

If anyone is interested, here are some of the pages that I relied on in putting this together:

http://www.godhatesfags.com/bible/God-hates.html
http://www.godhatesfags.com/reports/20060331_god-loves-everyone-lie.pdf
http://blogs.sparenot.com/workmen/2011/10/27/you-are-still-alive-now-is-the-time-to-repent/
http://www.godhatesfags.com/faq.html


I noticed Iyace that you posted your version but I haven't read it yet so as not to be influenced by your post in writing mine.

To reiterate: my goal here is to try to put myself in the shoes of a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, to imagine how I might see myself if I was a true believer. Nothing I write here should be interpreted as agreement or approval of anything these guys believe or do.


-----

We, members of the Westboro Baptist Church believe the bible is the holy Word of God. We believe the bible is literal and inerrant. We believe it provides an instruction manual for humans for how we should act. We believe that to not follow the word of God spells disaster for humans as individuals, as communities and as a species. We believe it is our sacred duty to promote the word of God or else face severe consequences.

We model our beliefs and our behaviour on God's beliefs and behaviour as revealed to us in the Bible. What God says is right or wrong we say is right or wrong. It is not for us to question God. It is not for us to challenge God. It is for us - and for all humans - to heed His Word. . It is not for us to give God our blessing. It is for God to chose whether or not to gift us His grace. It is not our right to judge God. It is for God to judge us. And God judges us harshly! We are all born deserving the fires of hell. By God's grace some of us may be saved according to His will.

It is a lie that God loves everyone. It is a lie of the most heinous kind. Though it may give some comfort now they will rue the day they believed this lie the moment they feel the first flame of hell. It is our sacred duty to denounce this lie and reveal God's truth as revealed to us in the holy Bible. It is our sacred to duty to hate what God hates, and who God hates. For who are we to question God's hate? Who are we to question God's wisdom? Who are we to substitute our values for God's? Who are we to say to Him- "God! You are wrong! The homosexuals deserve our love! Unborn babies are soulless blobs of blood and guts, suitable for flushing down the toilet! Marriage vows are meant to be broken!" What folly to spit in God's eye! What folly to trade our chance at grace for liberal guilt! And what folly to invite God's wrath to rain down upon us!

How long will the atheist last in the pits of hell before he begs God for reprieve? And how long after that before he realises that his chance for salvation is past? That he was not chosen for grace. How many times will he ask himself: "Would things have been different had I not ignored His Word?"

We have been commanded by God to cry out and show people their transgressions towards God. We all have been commanded to do so. As God commands, we obey. We have no ability to convince the sinner. We have no ability to convince the fornicator, the sodomite or the baby killer. We leave that to God. Our duty is to do what is commanded of us. God's will is clear. You ignore his will at your peril. And you ignore his will at our peril. God has made his will clear, and God's wrath is also clear. We are all sinners. We hope by following God's will that we will receive his grace. We hope that through our preaching others too will be saved. We know we too may burn in hell, be it God's will. Our duty is to obey.

We cannot force you to serve your God but make no mistake, neither will we allow your arrogance, selfishness and folly to deter us from following His commandments and asking for His grace! His Word is clear. The duty of man is clear. To ignore them may doom us all.
 
#11
If I'm understanding this correctly, the point of this WBC thing is to try to see the world through their eyes, to be as a church member and explain why I say the things I say. If I can do so with such an extreme group, it should be possible to do so with the skeptical mindset. Right?

The thing is, I already live with a skeptical mindset. I question everything I think I understand. I question stories and evidence. I think that goes for most, if not all, of the proponents here. The first time I see a story about an NDE or some research that shows psi effects, I do run though the possible mundane explanations - if only to satisfy myself that I have done so. When I am accused by skeptics of being unable to think critically, I think back to all of the doubts I carry and why. I attend a meet-up group where we discuss these things and I often feel like I'm the skeptic in the room. But, nevertheless, that is a group of people whose worldview is similar to mine. I don't feel the need to go to the local and popular Humanist group to tell them they are wrong.

What I have trouble understanding is the need to proselytise. A religious movement with somewhat less hateful views than the WBC is the Jehovah's Witnesses. They come to my home to tell me how my beliefs are wrong and how they can show me how to correctly see the world. They are trained to debate and they will never concede a point. It is literally pointless to argue with them, as this blog explains. I wonder whether the skeptics here can understand the comparison we make with that kind of behaviour?
 
#12
Well, in honesty, I did give it a try earlier today. I can't really bring myself to summon the hate to actually wish someone to die of a AIDS, after watching someone die from it.
 
#13
If I'm understanding this correctly, the point of this WBC thing is to try to see the world through their eyes, to be as a church member and explain why I say the things I say. If I can do so with such an extreme group, it should be possible to do so with the skeptical mindset. Right?
You're on the right track, but I suggest a subtle shift in focus. While completing the exercise will necessarily involve some measure of imagining how they see the world, the real goal, IMO, is to try to imagine how they see THEMSELVES. The object is to attempt to break down the US/THEM barrier by trying to view THEM from an US perspective.

The second part of the exercise is to try to imagine how THEY view US.

The thing is, I already live with a skeptical mindset. I question everything I think I understand. I question stories and evidence. I think that goes for most, if not all, of the proponents here. The first time I see a story about an NDE or some research that shows psi effects, I do run though the possible mundane explanations - if only to satisfy myself that I have done so. When I am accused by skeptics of being unable to think critically, I think back to all of the doubts I carry and why. I attend a meet-up group where we discuss these things and I often feel like I'm the skeptic in the room.
For the first part of this exercise (trying to imagine how they view themselves), my suggestion is to really try to push aside your perception of yourself. Get out of your own head - you're trying to get into someone else's!

The bolded however relates to the second part of the exercise. In the context of the exercise this one is hard to do because we're not actually dealing with a THEY who ever interacted with US. The endgame however is to help precisely with this type of scenario: "Hey! This guy just described me as X. But I don't see myself as X! How can they think this????" It's no easy thing, especially given the limits that communicating on an internet forum, to fully communicate our positions to other people. A person's actual position will almost always be more nuanced than their expression of their position would suggest. It can be helpful, in trying to bridge the gap between US and THEM on this forum, to take a minute to reflect on how we might think the other poster views us, when all they have to go on is what we've posted - which is only part of our position, taking into account as well reading habits on the internet, which in an ideal world would involve every post being studied and carefully considered but in practice may have just been skimmed.

What I have trouble understanding is the need to proselytise. A religious movement with somewhat less hateful views than the WBC is the Jehovah's Witnesses. They come to my home to tell me how my beliefs are wrong and how they can show me how to correctly see the world. They are trained to debate and they will never concede a point. It is literally pointless to argue with them, as this blog explains. I wonder whether the skeptics here can understand the comparison we make with that kind of behaviour?
When you recognise that some of them wonder the exact same thing about you you will see that this is EXACTLY what this exercise is aimed at! :)
 
#14
Well, in honesty, I did give it a try earlier today. I can't really bring myself to summon the hate to actually wish someone to die of a AIDS, after watching someone die from it.
I'm not sure if I gave this impression somehow, but to be clear, nothing in this exercise involves attempting to invoke the feelings of the other in ourselves. No hate was summoned by myself in my post above!

I'm sorry for your loss. I only chose WBC because you threw the name out and they seemed like a group that most if not all forum members would feel similarly negative about. We're not looking to stir up grief! Feel free to pick someone else as the focus of this exercise. It really doesn't matter who, so long as they hold very different views from your own.
 
#15
The point of the exercise is cultivating empathy for 'the other'. It does not matter how reprehensible or repulsive another view may be, there is a person holding it, and they have their reasons for doing so, reasons that are perhaps incomprehensible or inaccessible to us. But it is a useful exercise in confronting tribalism within one's self.
 
#16
I still maintain that I do try to see things from the other point of view - to do so checks and informs my own position. I do so with all the resident skeptics here and eventually I form an impression. I can never know with certainty whether that impression is wrong - which is why I have the uncertainty about your motives, Arouet. I see you appealing for understanding yet I also see your intransigence and support for the intransigence of others, especially Linda. I see people playing intellectual games - am I supposed to ignore that?

I know that some will have been through the university debate training. I know they encourage participants to defend a position they may not agree with, or may even vehemently disagree with. That's good. But they are also trained to use debating tactics and semantics to obfuscate: the object being to WIN the debate, not to arrive at a consensus. That's not good.

When I see you and Linda narrowing the focus, not just to a tree in the forest but to a vein on a leaf on a tree, I see a tactic: to introduce doubt which, once identified can be used to dismiss the whole subject under discussion. In my mind (I know you are going to claim it is only in my mind), I see you as someone furiously running around, pinching out candles. The candles represent the glow of potential which might lead to a new understanding of our world, our lives and our purpose. It seems to me that you have decided that such purpose cannot exist and that we must all follow your logic. Why else would you spend so much of your life insisting that we have it all wrong?

By the way, I noticed that you completely dismissed the point made by both Sciborg:

Yet proponents don't seem to be trying to stop skeptics from propagating their materialist faith and its attendant beliefs & miracles
.

and myself:

What I have trouble understanding is the need to proselytise.
I don't join the Humanist meet-up group. I don't join the JREF forum. I do enjoy a discussion with my atheist/materialist son but then he doesn't spend his time on religious or parapsychology forums demeaning their beliefs. He might agree with Dawkins but he doesn't campaign for him. If he did, I would probably avoid the subject and enjoy debating his views on politics or music instead.
 
#17
I still maintain that I do try to see things from the other point of view - to do so checks and informs my own position. I do so with all the resident skeptics here and eventually I form an impression. I can never know with certainty whether that impression is wrong - which is why I have the uncertainty about your motives, Arouet. I see you appealing for understanding yet I also see your intransigence and support for the intransigence of others, especially Linda. I see people playing intellectual games - am I supposed to ignore that?

I know that some will have been through the university debate training. I know they encourage participants to defend a position they may not agree with, or may even vehemently disagree with. That's good. But they are also trained to use debating tactics and semantics to obfuscate: the object being to WIN the debate, not to arrive at a consensus. That's not good.

When I see you and Linda narrowing the focus, not just to a tree in the forest but to a vein on a leaf on a tree, I see a tactic: to introduce doubt which, once identified can be used to dismiss the whole subject under discussion. In my mind (I know you are going to claim it is only in my mind), I see you as someone furiously running around, pinching out candles. The candles represent the glow of potential which might lead to a new understanding of our world, our lives and our purpose. It seems to me that you have decided that such purpose cannot exist and that we must all follow your logic. Why else would you spend so much of your life insisting that we have it all wrong?

By the way, I noticed that you completely dismissed the point made by both Sciborg:

.

and myself:



I don't join the Humanist meet-up group. I don't join the JREF forum. I do enjoy a discussion with my atheist/materialist son but then he doesn't spend his time on religious or parapsychology forums demeaning their beliefs. He might agree with Dawkins but he doesn't campaign for him. If he did, I would probably avoid the subject and enjoy debating his views on politics or music instead.
"When I see you and Linda narrowing the focus, not just to a tree in the forest but to a vein on a leaf on a tree, I see a tactic: to introduce doubt which, once identified can be used to dismiss the whole subject under discussion. In my mind (I know you are going to claim it is only in my mind), I see you as someone furiously running around, pinching out candles. The candles represent the glow of potential which might lead to a new understanding of our world, our lives and our purpose. It seems to me that you have decided that such purpose cannot exist and that we must all follow your logic. Why else would you spend so much of your life insisting that we have it all wrong?"

Very well put, Kamarling.
 
#18
The point of the exercise is cultivating empathy for 'the other'. It does not matter how reprehensible or repulsive another view may be, there is a person holding it, and they have their reasons for doing so, reasons that are perhaps incomprehensible or inaccessible to us. But it is a useful exercise in confronting tribalism within one's self.
I'm not sure it's tribal to loathe someone entirely for their views.
 
#19
I'm not sure if I gave this impression somehow, but to be clear, nothing in this exercise involves attempting to invoke the feelings of the other in ourselves. No hate was summoned by myself in my post above!

I'm sorry for your loss. I only chose WBC because you threw the name out and they seemed like a group that most if not all forum members would feel similarly negative about. We're not looking to stir up grief! Feel free to pick someone else as the focus of this exercise. It really doesn't matter who, so long as they hold very different views from your own.
It wasn't someone close to me. It was when I volunteered at a hospital in high school, and I just delivered meals. But that's my point. You have to summon hatred to actually understand where WBC was coming from, and that's why I think it's a good example. It's easy to delude yourself into thinking you understand someone's point of view, but as claimed, yours was extremely mild. To actually empathize and understand the WBC through their eyes, you need to summon the hatred they feel.

In fact, to empathize with them, you have to demolish empathy altogether, as they appear to have none.
 
#20
I know that some will have been through the university debate training. I know they encourage participants to defend a position they may not agree with, or may even vehemently disagree with. That's good. But they are also trained to use debating tactics and semantics to obfuscate: the object being to WIN the debate, not to arrive at a consensus. That's not good.
I wasn't on the debate team (I went to one meeting of the debate club and never went back). I've never been taught debating tactics and semantics to obfuscate nor have I ever deliberately made an argument with the goal of obfuscation. I can't say whether there are such lessons out there I can simply say I cannot recall ever having seen one. Even in my practice as a lawyer I can't recall making an argument designed to obfuscate - if by that you mean designed to "render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible." In fact my goal is almost invariably the opposite: I tend to seek to be as clear as a I possibly can, explaining my reasoning as clearly as I can.

When I see you and Linda narrowing the focus, not just to a tree in the forest but to a vein on a leaf on a tree, I see a tactic: to introduce doubt which, once identified can be used to dismiss the whole subject under discussion. In my mind (I know you are going to claim it is only in my mind), I see you as someone furiously running around, pinching out candles. The candles represent the glow of potential which might lead to a new understanding of our world, our lives and our purpose. It seems to me that you have decided that such purpose cannot exist and that we must all follow your logic. Why else would you spend so much of your life insisting that we have it all wrong?
Ok! This gives us some openings to perhaps make some headway here! I think it is fair to say that I quite readily narrow the focus in discussions so we'll start by accepting that. I started to address these points and I will but I'd like to ask something of you first if I may. You've stated how you view my posts. Based on what you've seen of what I've written, how do you think I view my posts? Do you think I agree with your assessment of my posts? How do you think I interpret your assessment of my posts? What do you think I think of my time here? Further, how do you think I see your assessment of my posts? I'd ask you for this to base your assessment solely on what I've written. I'll give my answers after you've given yours and maybe we can test my hypothesis of how we can improve communication on this forum.

By the way, I noticed that you completely dismissed the point made by both Sciborg:
Well, I agree I didn't reply to it. I made a plethora of substantive posts last night including one the one in this thread that took me several hours. I have much less ability nowadays to read and post during the workday. There are plenty of posts that I have opinions on that I don't reply to: there are only so many hours to the day so I pick and choose like anyone else. Nonetheless I've written on this topic many many times over the years, and even over the last few days. I'm going to impose again but asking you to go through this exercise again: based on what I've written in the past, what do you think I think about his post? Again I'll give my reply after you.

I know you have no obligation of course to go through this exercise as I've requested here. That said I hope you - or anyone else for that matter - will agree to do so. I don't believe it will be a waste of time and think it could be a valuable exercise.

and myself:
I'm not quite sure what you think I dismissed as I responded to that post! Think I did pretty well for 6:00 am when my previous post was 1:30 a.m! As I responded IIRC I did think about asking you go through the effort to do the exercise I did with the WBC but with this question: how do you think they see their proselytizing activities and how do you think they see your view of their proselytizing activities. Looks like I forgot to. I think you would find it useful to do it but given that I've just asked you to do the exercise in another context I wouldn't insist on it.


I don't join the Humanist meet-up group. I don't join the JREF forum. I do enjoy a discussion with my atheist/materialist son but then he doesn't spend his time on religious or parapsychology forums demeaning their beliefs. He might agree with Dawkins but he doesn't campaign for him. If he did, I would probably avoid the subject and enjoy debating his views on politics or music instead.
Other than the fact I have about 175 posts on the JREF forum (have you actually read my posts there? what do you think of them?) I'm not sure what you think here applies to me?
 
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