In Matters of Sloth

Smile and Sloth by Vic Briggs Daily Prompt: The Eighth Sin

Acedia or sloth, was first listed amongst eight evil thoughts (the basis of the modern seven deadly sins) by Evargrius the Solitary, a Christian ascetic monk.

Curiously, acedia does not necessarily have to mean sloth. It appears that in the Philokalia, which translates as “love of the beautiful, the good” and is “a collection of texts written between the 4th and 15th centuries by spiritual masters”,  the term acedia had the meaning of dejection or depression.

While depression may very well dim our ability to be sensible of the beautiful and the good in our lives, I should think that by including it amongst lists of “evil thoughts” and “deadly sins”, we attribute a negative agency to those who suffer from depression that is undeserved. So too goes for the paralysing consequences that depression can have, which prevent those who struggle with it to be as active and productive as they are when they are in a healthy place: being unable to work in such cases can by no means be deemed as slothful.

And while 4th century monks may have been ill-informed as to the causes of depression and its consequences, and could feel themselves justified in denoting it as a sin, I think that it may be time to eliminate it from the list.

So instead of adding another sin to the list, I say it is high time we lobby for the opposite.

As for our name-sake mammals, a few years ago I met one of their number in Peru. They are truly beautiful creatures, with soft, shaggy hair, kind eyes and appear to have a constant smile on their lips.  Certainly, they are very slow in their movements and I suppose that’s where they got the name. Then again, they have no reason to be in a hurry.

I’d like to think that perhaps if we too slowed down every now and then, and took our time to observe and delight in the world around us, we would enjoy life that little bit more.

Advertisements

Russia’s Stance on Homosexuality

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Project O

Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.

“Russia needs to get its act together. What the f**k? Is this the 19th century? This goes for the rest of the world, but they are the ones in vogue right now. In over half the countries in Africa, homosexuality is “illegal”. How can you make one’s sexuality illegal? Marching against Russia's Punitive Laws against HomosexualityThis is ludicrous. Some places even enforce the death penalty. Of course, this stems from religion – the plague of the world. Wake up! God is not listening to you. And if he is, he is a douche bag. Jesus is supposed to be about love. You a**hole.” Jonathon Saia

 

While I am very much in agreement with the spirit of Jonathon’s answer regarding the issue of homosexuality, being a promoter of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights myself, I think it is important to distinguish between our support for the gay community and our disagreement with the Christian position on homosexuality.

He is right to indicate that the Christian church ought to adjust its position on homosexuality, be open to change and rectify this instance of discrimination which results in appalling acts of violence and even in the death of gay people around the world by the hand of those who use religion to justify their heinous actions.

The Church could do a lot more to prevent this. But we should remember that not all Christians share the attitudes of the Church in this, as exemplified by the following: Why I Can’t Say “Love the Sinner / Hate the Sin” anymore. Many Christians are indeed as committed to equality and would want to see gay people’s rights and safety protected just as much as a non-believer would.

Furthermore, we ought also remember that many gay people are themselves Christians, and whilst it is a struggle due to the inherent contradictions that their faith engenders, it must be said that they are the ones who have the power and capacity to change things from within.

I am an atheist, so for me God is an idea created by Man in his own image – an
attempt to make sense of a world that can be unsafe, fragmented and uncertain. Since human beings are flawed, then all our creations are similarly so. In making God in his own image Man has also imbued this idea with his preconceptions, not to say prejudice.

But there is also another side to this idea, one that emphasises love, collaboration, solidarity and kindness. Many Christians, indeed many people that subscribe to other faiths too, tend to subscribe to this side of the coin, and do their best to curtail the first.

We shouldn’t make a habit of throwing them into the same basket with fanatics and fundamentalists that – had they not religion as an excuse – would have found another way to perpetrate harm on others.

Jonathon’s answer gave me a lot to think about, and I hope that my contribution will be of interest to him, as well as to the other participants.

Here are some snippets of the discussion that followed:  

navigator1965 says: Jonathan, Sorry, but your submission didn’t work for me. #6 I don’t see how your general disrespect for monotheistic religion and specific disrespect for Christianity materially differs from some other person’s general disrespect for homosexuals.

cineaste says: Because if God’s message is really saying, “I do not love homosexuals” as MANY Christians are vocal to say, than he is not worthy of respect.

Dotta Raphels :  Hi there, it’s good to read your takes here. I think what this project has done is give me a birds eye view into what people want me to see of them (at the end of the day, it’s exactly what you let out that is seen or perceived as you) That said, I respect your opinions and applaud your support to fundamental rights especially in the sexual orientation department and all.
I think when attitudes of “I don’t give a damn” is thrown around too much, it really may be a sign of something deeper and frankly, being frank many times offends.
As a follower and believer in the words and doctrines of Christ, it pains me to hear you refer to “God” as a douche bag regardless of intent, The one thing this project has been is REAL and intensely discreet in respect to civility and maturity.

IMO everyone has managed to make their point without disrespecting others beliefs or opinions.
To disagree is an absolute welcome, but lets do it with class. I have enjoyed your take and I hope the project has also opened you up to new horizons in regards to diversities and humanity as a whole. Thanks for sharing.

cineaste says: I am not speaking of people of faith in general. Many people believe in God and also believe that gay people are worthy of respect and love. What I am referring to are the people who use God as an excuse to persecute LGBT people. Hopefully he is NOT listening to them because ostensibly, theoretically, God is about love. But if they are truly doing God’s bidding, if this is behavior that God truly wants, than he is an asshole.

Susan Irene Fox says: Jonathon, as someone who is as intelligent as you are (I’ve been to your blog, so I know of where I speak – btw, loved the Myra Breckenridge post), you must be able to differentiate between the characteristics God and the people who misuse His name. As you so aptly stated, “Jesus is supposed to be about love.” In this you are correct. I am proud to be Christian, to be a follower of Jesus, and we are not all like the Christians who blithely toss around hate or judgment.

I would respectfully request that you not lump us all together, and please don’t judge the God who created and loves us all by the actions of the vocal and fundamentalist extremists who presume to speak for Him or for the rest of us.

Thank you, and thanks for sharing your opinions. We all have so much to learn from one another, it would be terrific it we could be open enough to do it graciously.

 

What is your take on this issue?

You have the stage. Make your voice heard. All opinions welcome.

*

Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Some are more equal than others

animal-farm1

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with The Poisoned Well

I had promised myself to give the issue of Feminism a rest for a while, and fully intended to keep to that promise, until I came across The Poisoned Well’s latest… I do not even know how best to label it. It beggars belief.

Oh well… Broken Promises all over again.

I have always approached the subject with humour, although the message is a serious one: If you are a democrat, you are a feminist, and I will endeavour to be equally moderate (?) in my reply to what I deem a rather immoderate attack on what the movement stands for.

The first poisoned chalice on offer in this well, is the claim that “From day one Feminism has been elevating women at the expense of men.”*

At the expense of men? Is this a superpower zero sum game? Is it truly so difficult to grasp that to consider women to be of equal worth to men is not to the latter’s detriment? Surely the opposite is true.

We live in democracies where all citizens are deemed to be of equal worth. We got to this point by endeavouring to ensure that such equality is not an equality in name alone, and that reality comes as close to our aspiration for mutual respect, equal rights and equal social standing as it is possible.

The kind of Manichean ontology to which my opponent subscribes – that any advance for women is a step back for men – is frankly as outmoded as it is damaging. It is this kind of attitude that hurts both women and men, and not Feminism, as The Poisoned Well would have you believe.

But wait a little. It gets better. Feminism in The Poisoned Well’s depiction comes close to the likeness of a savage werewolf “Tearing men down to elevate women”* apparently.

Careful, ladies! Make sure to get that muzzle on when the Full Moon’s a-calling. I chain myself up to the bedpost too, just in case. Never know when the blood thirst will strike, and that pulsating manly vein… Argh! The scent is too much to withstand. You know what they say: the best way to avoid temptation, is to give into it.

Just when I thought I’d taken all precautions, the poison dosage was upped. Listen carefully. Did you know that “Men are excluded from most victim services even though men are more often the victim of every single crime including rape”*?

Umm… Dearest, The Poisoned Well, you might want to look into some stats on this. You will find that women are overwhelmingly the victims of rape. I’m not sure what country you live in to have experienced this, but in most civilised places, men are not excluded from most victim services. They are not excluded full stop.

What next? Here’s a juicy one for you: “Harass a man, it’s Tuesday.  Harass a woman, it’s the end of the world.  Inequality and discrimination really have become part of our every day lives.”*

You are right that inequality and discrimination is part of our everyday lives. It has not “become” this, it’s always been the case, but implying that the Feminist movement is somehow responsible for this is beyond inaccurate. You clearly have an axe to grind – in waiting for that Feminist Werewolf lurking under your bed, I imagine – but you may want to take on socio-political, class and economic factors into consideration, rather than bandying all societal evils under the standard of Feminism.

But The Poisoned Well has plenty more in store for your pallet’s delight: “Men are murdered much more often than women, but women suffer from catcalls.  We must ignore mens lives and protect the women’s feelings.”*

Men are murdered by other men mostly, so… this is relevant to a discussion of Feminism… how?

And men’s lives are not ignored. It is not for Feminism as a movement to take on this particular issue. Perhaps you may want to call on Law and Order from the State instead. It is the failure of the state to protect its citizens that results in the type of crime you describe.

You seem to be under the erroneous impression that society should ignore sexual harassment because there are other “more important” things to resolve first. Perhaps you would like for children to continue being molested too until all murderers have been jailed?  Using your logic society ought to say that it’s only assault, after all, and punishing those guilty of causing death takes precedence, right?

How can it be useful or helpful in any way to make such arguments?

For another meaty offering, The Poisoned Well decides that an attack on Religion is in order next. “Women are baby factories and men are disposable meat shields. […]Religion oppresses everyone except for the Plutocrats that own the religion.”*

Now, I find myself – a declared atheist – the defender of religion. Oh the irony!

Whatever system of thought or belief you may subscribe to, reducing religion to the above formula hardly cuts the mustard. It is a parody at best, and it’s hardly the way to encourage equality, or even the most basic form of mutual respect in this context.

Breaking News! “Women make the same as men in the same jobs. The problem of “The wage Gap” isn’t unequal pay for equal work.”* 

Well, aren’t I lucky to have been disabused of this notion about the continued gender inequality when it comes to salaries? Clearly all those other studies undertaken by highly respected economists, all reports on the matter submitted after thorough investigations: researched, documented, and backed up with relevant statistics – all nonsense apparently. Thank you, The Poisoned Well for clearing it all up for us. Eternally grateful, I’m sure.

Now I could go on and tell you about some other of The Poisoned Well’s brilliant insights, such as the fact that Feminism has apparently abolished the heroic male lead in cinematography, and that there is no such thing as men’s professional sports – they are gender neutral – I say! Jolly good – and women simply can’t keep up, so now they’ve come up with their own sports that make tons of money and objectify men in the process.

Aha! You heard me right, ladies. Down, boy. Down! Let me take a look at ya simmering swim-suited bod. That’s all you’re worth to me. It’s all hot-hot bunga-bunga and no emotional involvement. Cry me a river!

Then men get objectified some more and are excluded from reproductive rights. Just as they thought they were safe, hop! they go down a dark alley and get mugged for flashing their wealth around – wealth that of course is no greater than women’s because the pay-gap is a myth obviously – and this is all because of Feminism. The horror! What kind of a world do we live in?

And the Feminist coup de grâce? Men are NOT represented in the White House!!! No. Apparently the politician’s desire to be re-elected puts them well and truly at mummy’s skirt and under women’s Jimmy Choos. Result!

Final Poisoned Well pearl for the grand finale: “There is nothing that turns my stomach more.  Don’t worry I won’t be reading Jesus Feminist any time, ever.  If I want to read a distopian horror I’ll just read 1984 or Animal Farm.”*

I hear you, sister. Don’t think I’ll be turning to dystopias any time soon either. I mean… just read your article. That’s quite enough dystopia for one day, thank you very much.

*All quotes in this article are from The Poisoned Well‘s How Feminism Hurts men.

 *

Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Paradise Found

Fallen_Angel_by_Omertohka_large

I am not Adam.

For you were proud of him.

I… cast out on a whim.

What had I wronged you with?

 

Now seeing them content

Whilst rotting in exile,

I feel the rise of bile,

Drowning all good intent.

 

I am not Adam.

Displaced because I dared

To question, you declared.

How could you think it just?

 

I have no wings to soar.

It tastes of endless malice

With poison full this chalice.

I’ll drink it all, and more.

 

I am not Adam.

My fate is sealed, but I

Will not sit still and sigh.

Why pray should you have rest?

 

One day you too will fall.

Always in speech unspeaking,

You banished me unthinking,

But doom awaits your all.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/daily-prompt-evil/

God @TheTweetOfGod: Everyone makes mistakes.

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with  Sifting Reality

duty_calls“Atheism is a belief, and it is a worldview, but I understand that it isn’t a religion even if some Atheists hold to their atheism religiously.  Newly trending is the creation of churches of atheism — pun intended. […] The fact that Atheists discuss, promote, evangelize, congregate over, and erect monuments to atheism leaves little doubt that it is something, and it means very much to them.”

http://siftingreality.com/2013/11/11/atheists-flock-to-churches-of-atheism-because-atheism-is-not-a-religion/#comment-75702

Atheism is not a belief.

It is a position vis-à-vis Theism, and that position is not one of negation, but rather one of excepting oneself from the conversation, since one doesn’t accept the basis for that conversation and therefore – there being no common ground, no common sets of rules and norms – there can be no dialogue on the matter.

A/Theism: Where Theism is the belief that at least one deity exists, Atheism is the non-engagement with that belief.

I am an atheist. But I could just as well say I am secular. I adhere to secular humanitarian values.

To an atheist, to posit the question of God equates to posit the question of Harry Potter – please bear with me, no insult intended and I will explain – in so far as both subjects are to an atheist the invention/creation/work of human beings’ imagination. So they do have value, but only as human creations, nothing else.

Man created God to make sense of a world that can be at times difficult to understand, frightening to cope with, and permeated with uncertainty.

Man created God

Several questions, which I hope you will help clarify for me:

1. Are they actually called churches or are they community groups or public houses perhaps?

It seems strange to me that atheists would be “congregating” in “churches.” It is far more likely that they would be meeting in community centres, schools or academies, and the above vocabulary would be used by Christians to try and make sense of what it is that atheists do, and lacking the necessary secular jargon – or perhaps simply choosing not to use it – they call the meetings “congregations” and the meeting halls “churches.”

2. I understand that atheists are still very much a minority in the US (truth be told atheists that actually declare themselves as such are still a minority everywhere in the world).

I also understand that being “out” as an atheist can mean being excluded from many community projects, volunteering opportunities and other group activities which in America tend to be organised by church groups.

Is it possible that what atheists are attempting to do, is to get together and set up alternatives, where they can still do the things they want to do, without being prevented from contributing to society because they happen to be non-believers. Again, I’m using stories that I have been told by American atheists over the years, many of whom have felt ostracised once “out”.

And you are quite right. There is something that means a lot to us atheists: humanity.

*

danielwalldammit says:  “It is entirely possible that the ‘something’ which makes atheism meaningful is not an object or even a lack thereof in the belief so much as the social significance of the stance taken amidst so many who opt for its opposite.”

zqtx says: “I think the organizers are illustrating the point that you don’t have to be a faith-based group to do good deeds or inspire others to do good deeds in the community.”

John Barron says: I don’t know if this one calls itself a church, but there are ones, in England at least, that do. But your definition of atheism is not the definition that has been used for centuries.  Yours is rather new and seems to be for the purpose of not having to defend your belief that no gods exist.

Dear John,
I beg to differ. The burden of proof lies with religion. Why would one be required to defend their lack of belief?

I don’t feel the need to defend myself, because I am not under attack. If someone tried to burn me at the stake for being a witch because I’m an infidel or a non-believer – then I’d get worried and build up a defence.

My definition is not new. It is simply a crispier repackaging of what Atheism stands for.

In any case, I did not say that God does not exist, only that to me God is an idea not an entity, and whilst I understand why others believe, for all intents and purposes I’m not part of that flock. I have my own set of truths, norms and values that I shape my life around.

Do Christians believe in a white dude with a beard that sits up in the skies?

I’d say not. If accepted as valid however, then yes, atheists don’t believe that the white guy in the sky with a big beard exists.

Regarding the “white guy with a beard in the sky” – as far as I’m concerned, it is not a Christian belief, but a caricature of it. Unfortunately this is also the case for atheism: what gets most press coverage are caricatures.

For the sake of mutual respect, it would be nice if the equivalent simplistic definitions of atheism would also be disposed of, alongside simplistic definitions of Christian beliefs.

Personally I trust that human beings are intelligent enough, and given the chance, articulate enough, to go beyond two-a-penny caricatures of their beliefs, thoughts, etc. and actually engage in mutually beneficial discussions about the meaning of life and death – because ultimately, each in our own way, those are the answers we are searching for.

Best regards,
-Vic

*

Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

PROJECT R: Relationship Interrupted on Religion

I’m a philosopher-in-training. To question and to doubt comes easily to me. Certainty was once mine, but I love the fluidity of reality and the relativity of truth. They sparkle alive and enlivening, with humour and love.  

Name: vicbriggs / Website: www.shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/ Twitter: @shardsofsilence / Email: viki.briggs@gmail.com

          1. On Failure. What does love mean to you? Did you ever think of yourself as a failure because a relationship came to an end?

For some time I thought of it as a failed relationship: my relationship with God that is. It took me many years to come to terms with my loss of faith. I entered adulthood, however, entirely at peace.

On the subject of love, I am tempted to say that I feel very much the same way now as I did back when. “Love your neighbour as you love thyself,” is something that I still strive towards, even if the endeavour has lost its religious imprint.

As for feeling like a
failure because it ended… No. Like any worthwhile relationship, it was one that I’ve learnt from, and when there was nothing more to learn, for me at least, I chose to move on.

          2. On Being Flawed. Are you more comfortable on your own or in a relationship?

To be human is to be flawed. Our flaws are also a part of what makes us unique, beautiful. I’ve heard mortality referred to as a human flaw. I’m not sure I agree with that. Our mortality is a limitation that is very difficult to accept, yes, but a flaw? Once acknowledged, it can be empowering; it can drive us to great things, or simply ordinary things that are great in their simplicity and persistence. There is Art in leading an ordinary life.

I am more comfortable being without God, than I ever was being with. Faith is a very straightforward affair: you either have it, or you don’t. There’s little else to it.

          3. On Eros. Do you require a romantic relationship to feel fulfilled?

There is something very powerful about the magic number of TWO. Adam and Eve: one famous couple amongst many others. Perhaps unconsciously we are forever trying to recreate it. But then… Aphrodite was only ONE, and she did rather well for herself.

          4. On Soul-mates. Do you believe that there is a soul-mate for everyone out there? Do you ever feel that you are only half of the equation, and will be ‘lacking’ something until you find someone to share your everyday life with?

Working from within the paradigm… I always struggled with the idea of Eve being fashioned out of Adam’s rib. He lacks a rib, and she is one? Of course, the metaphor is not lost on me, but still.

Another question of physiology that has similarly troubled me in this respect is that of “the navel”. Did the original couple have navels or not. If yes, what purpose did they serve? If not, how did the rest of humanity get landed with one?

          5. On Self-Love. Do you think that to be loved by others you have to love yourself? What does self-love mean to you? To love, can it sometimes mean letting go?

To be at ease in your own skin, I suppose, is very much what self-love is all about. It makes it easier when you interact with others. It makes it easier not to see endings as catastrophes. They usually aren’t; in life very few things are.

“Because I love you so

I have to let you go.”

Thinking back at my childhood and its Christian setting, the most important type of love was loving one’s deity, which equalled loving one’s parents. Of course, one would always have to be careful not to covet the neighbour’s wife. There are some types of love which are socially as well as theologically unacceptable. Even now, I avoid getting too friendly with my neighbour’s wife. I suppose some norms will linger, try as I might to renounce them.

          6. On Fulfilment. Can we only find fulfilment in others, or is it possible to be happy and find contentment in our other accomplishments, whatever our relationship status?

It’s Babel out there. We all speak, perhaps more today with social media at our fingertips than ever before. We speak more than we listen. Oftentimes, we think we understand, but the form doesn’t always fit the content. I still believe that relationships bring us the greatest fulfilment (all relationships, of which the romantic ones are only a small part).

          7. On Interpersonal Skills. Are people in relationships simply better at ‘people skills’ than those who are not?

The communitarian aspect of religion promotes interaction. This however does not mean that if you go to church you are somehow automatically better at people skills than if you don’t. As with every group, there will always be those who mingle more, and those who will keep themselves to themselves.

          8. On Project R. In what way, if at all, did this project help you think through the question of “relationships”?

If someone told my child-self that at the age of thirteen I would no longer be a believer, I would’ve laughed in their face. If someone told me now that there may come a time when I would be a believer again, I’d still chuckle (internally). Oh, irony might find its arrow’s mark.

I am ready to accept that the agnostic position is a wiser, more mature one to take. Nonetheless, I am not an agnostic. I can argue along the accepted lines and defend my position if challenged, but I have the certainty of the atheist that: with death comes the end and there is nothing after.  The only ground that I can give on this, to both Christians and agnostics alike, is Larkin’s verse:

“Our almost-instinct almost true:

What will survive of us is love.”

*

This is PROJECT R: Relationship Interrupted.

Photographers, writers, artists, poets: Let’s talk Relationships!

Why? A friend needs my help to get over a tough breakup. And I need you.

How? Just follow the link below and answer eight questions about relationships or lack thereof, love and fulfilment, failure and success, flaws and accomplishments, and soul-mates.

https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/project-r-i-think-best-when-i-think-with-others/

Please send your contribution for PROJECT R to:  viki.briggs@gmail.com.

To be screened on vicbriggs’s blog from the 14th to the 31st of October

The deadline for submissions is Sunday, the 13th of October.

All for a good cause.

*

Acknowledgments

I did not plan on writing this post, until I came across AOpinionatedMan’s latest musings on religion, and decided to reconsider a subject that is usually only of intermittent importance for me nowadays. So, thank you OM, for inspiring this. There are two related OM articles on religion and the definition of shame:  http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/10/11/the-definition-of-shame/ http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/10/10/om-on-religion-part-4-christian-shame/

And here is a link to my original reblog and definition of the same:  https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/the-definition-of-shame/