Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Flamingo Analogy

"The world's toughest flamingo is still a flamingo."

Sometimes when I stop by the flamingo pen at the zoo, I'll see two flamingos fighting. This always makes me laugh, because really, what's this fight going to prove? Sure, you might be the strongest, but you're still a skinny pink bird with a crooked beak and a wormlike neck. When you're one of nature's silliest animals, there's no extra prestige in being the biggest and baddest one. Just picture a flamingo in a leather jacket and shades, sporting skull tattoos.  Intimidating, no?  No.

This analogy comes to mind whenever I see two "silly" groups fighting with each other.  For example, Twilight fans had "Team Edward" vs "Team Jacob".  No one ever wins these arguments, but even if you did, you'd still be a loser.  So if you ever hear me dismiss an argument as a "flamingo fight", that's what I mean.

It's hard for me to say this without insulting my more reverent friends, and so I apologize for this in advance.  But I also consider this analogy whenever I see two religious groups attacking each other. It doesn't matter if it's Christians vs Muslims, or Baptists vs Presbyterians, or Jehovah's Witnesses vs Mormons. From an outsider's point-of-view, all these religions are equally unlikely.

Lest you think I'm being snobbish, I'm not immune to the flamingo analogy. Everyone has their own flamingo threshold.  I've argued with my fellow geeks on many subjects that ordinary mortals would find pointless.  I've participated in internet flame wars over the best edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  I've been involved in heated discussions over the greatest Star Trek captain. 

So if I ever dismiss a battle you believe in as a flamingo fight, well, I'm sorry.  I know these things are important to people, and I should respect the believer if not the belief.  On the other hand, if you laugh along with me while I make fun of arguments between Twilight fans, Mormons, or rap artists, but suddenly get offended when I include something you like, then we're probably headed to the same hell together.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Believe It, Or Not.

Why do you believe what you believe?

I strongly distrust anyone who reaches adulthood and ends up having the exact same religious beliefs as their parents.  Wikipedia says there's about 38,000 Christian denominations... what are the odds your parents picked the right one?  It tells me you've never really given it a lot of thought, other than those "justify what I'm already doing" kind of thoughts.  What if your parents never gave it much more thought than that, either?  How many generations ago was it that someone actually did some real research?  Look, I appreciate the whole, "My daddy is always right" thing, but if everyone emulated their parents without question, we'd all still be living in caves. But we did progress... some... which means that blind obedience must skip a generation now and then.

Okay, I'm just venting because I'm pissed about the gay rights issues in the news right now.  I'm a bit tired of bigots (some of which are in my own family) who defend themselves by saying, "I'm sorry, it's just what my religion teaches."  Well, then you're not really sorry, because you choose to keep following that version of your religion.  There are plenty of Christian churches that believe gays are 100% equals.  They're really not hard to find, believe me.  But by staying in your present bigoted church, you're saying, "I believe what these people believe."  There's no "sorry" to it.

Admittedly I'm agnostic, but that doesn't mean I think religious people are stupid.  On the contrary, many of the smartest people I know are Christian.  To me, religion is just philosophy.  Everyone has a philosophy, and it has nothing to do with intelligence.  What is stupid is not following the tenets of your own religion.  It's like saying, "I know exactly what will send me to Hell, so I'm going to do just that."

There is plenty of evidence that the Bible is fine with homosexuality.  There are six verses people usually quote when they're trying to support their anti-gay agenda, but those verses are often misunderstood and subject to contexts these people won't consider.  Due to archaic language and translation differences, the Bible is extremely open to interpretation.  There's a lot of personal choice involved when you decipher a passage for yourself.  The fact is, you either blindly follow your parents/preacher/etc (who in turn may have blindly followed whoever taught them), or you choose what you think is most likely interpretation.  Why choose the worst one?  Don't you have more respect for your God than that?

As I said above, there are 38,000 versions of the Christian God.  Every single one of them has the same amount of evidence for their existence (i.e. none).  That's not a dig at religion; the Bible is pretty clear that faith is integral to Christianity, and therefore evidence is not needed.  Whether or not I consider that a cop-out is irrelevant.  But it does mean that there's no more proof that your denomination is the correct one, than there is for one of the more enlightened churches.  You don't pick a denomination based on how scientifically likely you think that version of God is.  You don't say, "Well, this church was verified by snopes and Mythbusters, so it must be the true path."  No, you go on faith, and pick one that fits beliefs you already have. 

What I'm getting at is, you can't blame the Bible if you think it tells you to discriminate against someone.  You chose your church, even if you lazily chose it by continuing to follow your parents' choices.  You chose your denomination, you chose how to interpret the passages.  You knew there were alternatives, and you chose your path anyway.  You have no right to blame God.  God is not the bigot, you are.  The Bible clearly told you to love everyone; you are the one who decided that meant "discriminate against people who are different."  By your own religion's most basic rules, you are the one who is on a path to damnation, all the while pointing fingers at everyone else.  How in the world can you not see this?

Update:  I just saw this article on The Oatmeal that seemed appropriate.