Tag Archives: language

Fight for the right to blaspheme

“These ideas offended, but they changed the world. Without the free exchange of ideas, progress is impossible.”

CFI’s Campaign for Free Expression.

Why I like to argue

(and it’s not just because I’m disagreeable)

I’m very vocal in my affection for Rachel Maddow.  I love how impassioned she’s been in covering the BP oil spill, I love how she’s social-justice minded, and I love how she doesn’t sink down to the lowest-denominator when covering the gong-show antics of Republicans these days (though there’s no shortage of material available).

One of the ways that Rachel is different from Keith Olbermann is how she doesn’t just take the easy cheap-shot when covering some of the wackier news of conservatives.  She takes a bigger picture approach, and it’s one that leaves the viewer (me!) in a place where I feel challenged and educated, not just entertained for a cheap laugh (a la “worst person in the world” clips, etc).

Last week offered one of those moments for me.  Maddow was covering the Sharron Angle interviews in Nevada — a little background: if you’re looking for wingnut Republican, Angle pretty much fits the bill in her platform stances.  But rather than just stringing together a bunch of clips that would just illustrate how silly this candidate is, Rachel took another approach, and made a commentary of why it’s important to open up conversations with people who you don’t necessarily agree with.  Here’s some of what Rachel said:

But when Sharron Angle‘s political career ended last night on local television in Nevada, it was a perfect case study in what happens if you don‘t ever talk to people with whom you disagree.  Because here is the thing – when your positions are never questioned, you‘re never forced to develop strong logic to back them up.  When your arguments are never challenged, you don‘t ever have to improve them.  You don‘t ever have to cast out arguments of yours that don‘t make sense or learn how to deal with evidence that appears to contradict your conclusions.

That‘s why I regret that we don‘t have more conservatives on this show.  Because I do have a point of view, of course, but I like talking with people with whom I disagree, both because it is fun and selfishly because it makes my arguments better. [my emphasis] link

Here’s the clip from the show:

While Rachel was talking in the context of politics, I can take what she’s said and apply it to other areas of discussion/debate that I love to take part in — including conversations on religion.

I once had a friend who never understood the merits of a good argument.  One night another good friend and I were duke-ing it out over the cinematic worth of The Hurt Locker (she hated it, I liked it), and for some in the room with us, they were quite upset to see how impassioned each of us were in our position.  But we weren’t “fighting;” we were seriously discussing our positions — and afterward, we learned more about each other in the process (not to mention the fact I got to gloat over all the Academy Awards the film eventually won).

It’s for these reasons that I enjoy opening myself up to all the untouchable subjects of conversation (read: politics and religion) — namely, because I like to be challenged just as much as I like to challenge.  It’s just a shame that many people today would rather surround themselves with ideological clones, rather than opening themselves up for debate.

What he said: on “emotional intelligence” and leadership

Tonight I listened to the latest Chariots of Iron podcast, and there was an interview with author Darrel Ray (author of The God Virus).   Dr. Ray has helped start many “Recovering Religionists” groups across North America, and I’ve been in touch with him about our own Café Apostate group.  I was expecting this interview to be mainly about these support groups, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear him give some insights into leadership, especially within the secular non-believing community.

He’s a organizational psychologist, with 30+ years of experience helping corporations and non-profit groups deal with leadership/team issues, so I think he’s got some footing to take into consideration. What struck me about the podcast interview was when Ray said: “[freethinking leaders] need to learn to deal with conflict in an emotionally intelligent way.”

Just by virtue of being a human being, conflict is an inevitable part of life.  And the older I get, the more I’m realizing that it’s  HOW conflict is dealt with that makes all the difference.  I found a blog post Ray wrote, and his thoughts sum up nicely some of the issues I’ve personally felt and noticed within the larger freethinking community:

We need to develop leadership in the Secular community. Too many secular groups are fragmented and less organized and effective than they could be. Much of this can be traced to conflict management skills among secular leaders. All groups encounter conflict, if managed well, it leads to organizational vitality. If ignored or mismanaged, it leads to fragmentation and animosity.

Some people speak of conflict resolution, I generally see conflict management as the real issue. Conflict is a positive force if viewed in that light and is rarely totally resolved. In fact, I become suspicious if people say a conflict has been totally resolved. What is more likely is they have just found a way to hide it better and it will come back with a vengeance eventually. If it is viewed as a power struggle with winners and losers, it becomes a never ending cycle of wasted creativity and energy. It takes emotionally intelligent leaders to recognize and manage conflict towards organizational vitality. [my emphasis]

Leadership in the Secular Community
Darrel Ray

What he said.

“I’m Comic Sans, and I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg.”

So funny.  Read the whole monologue here.

For anyone else who’s currently buried underneath a pile of student papers to mark…


Maybe my affection for this cartoon is due to my current context of careless typos and jumps in student reasoning, but I found this cartoon HILARIOUS.

(it could also be due to my cold-medicine induced haze)