Number Nine: Bring on the Paine

You know, sometimes it takes a good struggle or battle to realize what really matters. It takes being in a fight to make you finally realize if what you’re fighting for is even worth fighting for. Recently, a guy  asked a Deist group I was in to chime in on same-sex marriage. I did, as did pretty much everybody involved. And to no one’s surprise, the views were divided. It got ugly in a hurry, with pro, con and undecided fighting dirty (including yours truly, who’s known for potshots when the need presents itself). Well, it cooled down for a bit. I apologized for my part in it, and left it at that. No sooner did I do that than it started again. The guy posted the question on July 8th; it wasn’t answered for what everybody hopes is the last time until July 22nd. It had over 400 comments, a staggering number for any one query.

It’s only natural that such a controversial subject would bring out such heated emotions. Where the problems lie is in the arguments given both for and against it. It seemed everybody who kept it going after I stepped out simply wanted to show how “enlightened” they were. All you heard for the bulk of the discussion was quotes from the great philosophers of antiquity. A “Black Conservative” would whip out Socrates and all these Christian theologians. The liberal lady had her studies from the APA and her college professors. If they were even in the damned discussion, I could see it. Instead, those two were using other people to make their arguments for them.

It took over 300 comments until they finally stopped relying on other people and talked for themselves. THEN their arguments took on validity. I’ll give credit where credit’s due; the Black Conservative really brought some very valid points to the table once he used his own voice. He brought up things that have always bothered even me about the gay rights movement: the infringement, rather than the assimilation, of homosexuals in and on American institutions, i.e. having to have a gay this and a gay that in every social forum; the error of comparing the current movement to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s; and educating very young schoolchildren on homosexuality. The liberal lady also brought out many valid statements as well: marriage being a civil institution, and not a religious one; how absurd it is to ban SSM on the grounds that reproduction is impossible (especially when babies are on sale in Africa); and that as taxpayers, homosexuals have the rights to insurance and healthcare benefits.

The same-sex marriage debate also had some unintentionally hilarious moments. When questioned about his Black conservative affiliation, the guy proudly proclaimed he was “67% European”. I know. Never mind that Black people live in Europe too. Then we got to hear how bacteria is spread through anal sex, and how it’s no safer than heterosexual activities, which involves the damp, moist vagina that’s also prone to yeast infections… 

While all that was going on, I decided to get the Audible version of Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason. I knew there was no way I was gonna sit down and read a book like that, so I got it in audiobook so I can stay busy and listen at the same time. In a nutshell, Paine exposes the blatant absurdities of the Bible, and allows his audience to simply look around them at natural wonders to truly recognize the awe-inspiring creative power of God. He didn’t need to quote Socrates to get his own point across; he used basic, 3rd-grade English to make his argument, even though a lot of his teachings had came from classic philosophers. Paine used them, true, but he also used his own common sense and personal experiences to make his ideology accessable to everybody. I cannot recommend this book enough.

One of Paine’s greatest contributions is the emphasis on a person using their reason to determine the best path for them to take in life. Socrates pretty much taught the same thing. Since both involve the human mind, reason can be and always is subjective; a person’s individual experiences or prejudices color their opinions on things. If a person of mixed heritage sees nothing but the negative side of African-American culture, he’ll slant toward a more traditionally Causasian mindset to escape that part of his persona. If a lesbian has been routinely harassed for her sexuality, she’ll lean towards more liberal ideologies. Both develop the ability to reason, but will probably come to different conclusions. How effective their conclusions are pretty much depend on them.

As stated earlier, much of Paine’s material in Age of Reason came from earlier great minds like Socrates and Plato. The intellectual elite had heard a lot of it before, so freethinking wasn’t new. It was new to Tony Jabroni out working in a field or a carpentry shop, and the idea that he would think for himself scared the hell out of the 18th century Churchianity he would walk away from. Thomas Paine was considered a threat to everybody around him, and he was ultimately blacklisted by both his native England and the United States…of which he was a Founding Father. But he never regretted making the concept of freethinking to people around the world. Freethinking sounds a lot more involved than it is. All it is is having an open mind. Simple, right? What if I say freethinking includes accepting concepts that make you very uncomfortable, or come from a source you may not like? That’s a lot easier said than done, especially if you think you know every damned thing.

This brings me back to the guy who posted the same-sex marriage question. Now, I have no doubt he’s brilliant. I’m sure he’s a genius. He’s so smart, he wrote this on my wall in response to last month’s blog about wrasslin’ and religion’s funny similarities, and has yet to actually read it…

Please do not send me anymore of your E-mail. I am not a wrestling fan. To me it seems as a lack of evolutionary progress going back to the Roman Gladiator mentality when religion and death was part of a tribal entertainment and control. It has no place in the age of Enlightenment or Intellectual Deism.”

What?

And I thought my grammar and punctuation were garbage. I don’t have to have a very vivid imagination, folks; I let other people do crazy sh*t for me. That statement is on my Facebook wall even now. If this crackpot would have been as great a “freethinker” as he claims, he would have at least read the blog before he made such a nutty statement. Again, freethinking is simply opening your mind. It’s not just some buzzword; it’s an actual concept which, when used properly, can give you a new, refreshing view on life. But the worst part about freethinking? Accepting the fact that you may very well be wrong about something, which is partly why the SSM thing went to 400 comments. Neither of the final two combatants could imagine the other was possibly right, when it was never really a “right-or-wrong” issue anyhow. Once I stepped away from the SSM train wreck, it wasn’t about winning or losing. It was a chance to see if anything valid came out of it. Towards the end it actually did, and I was willing to simply listen…forget which side I was on…give props where it’s due…and it became worthwhile. I was freethinking. It was not easy whatsoever, but to be my best, it has to at least be attempted.

People like our wrestling fan there probably couldn’t get Thomas Paine to piss in their mouths, because to them, “freethinking” involves them using a word hardly anybody else does, and nothing more. After all, they’ve “arrived”, and need no further knowledge. He’s hardly alone; many so-called intellectuals do the exact same thing.  You’re not a freethinker if you have to use somebody else’s stuff to make your arguments; if anything, you’re a plagarist, and you’re showing the person you’re ripping off is as smart as you are ignorant. You’re not a freethinker if you refute information because you don’t like the source; you’re simply showing you’re agenda-driven, just like the people you’re probably citing. Finally, you’re not freethinking just because you read Age of Reason, and worship Thomas Paine. I watch people exhalt the book worse than Muslims with a Qu’ran, and quote him like his words are Bible verses. Hell, I just finished the book. I took it for the well-written treatise it was, and went on applying it to my everyday life with little fanfare. It can be done. And btw… Thomas Paine was a man, just like you and me. He didn’t set out to start a church denomination, contrary to what his paraphrasers seem to believe. The difference between him and his worshippers is that Paine actually contributed to society, and realized the responsibility to do so. Take a wild guess where I got my definition of freethinking from.

I cannot imagine going through life with a genius intellect and treating people like dirt. Such a person would have to be a miserable son of a b*tch.  I don’t have a college degree, and from what I’ve seen, I only see it as a good gateway to more money, because I don’t see where the “education’ part is useful. I could do without it. On the same page, if I know a way out of the hurt of religion, I owe it to others to be able to show them a way out, and Deism is a possibility. On that same page. I owe it to other people to lift them up when I can, and rip into them if I must. It also means allowing it to be done to me when needed too. And it happens quite often. But I know it has to. It’s part of freethinking. 

 Later. DWT.

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Posted on July 25, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Andrea B. Lucero

    Well Said. I was one to contribute to the SSM debate and I understand what you are saying. I am almost done reading the "Age of Reason" too. I have always been a free thinker however my free thinking does lead to moral values and its those values that I argue for in the SSM debate. Ultimately I do not care whether someone likes or approves of the homosexual life, but I do care whether the rights of one group/type of people are being made to matter MORE than another group/type of people and that concept alone is what I was fighting for; that no matter what, no group of people are better than another. To me, that is what the root of the debate was about. When it comes down to it, the question that was asked was "do you believe that heterosexuals deserve better treatment than homo and bisexuals? " and, given the morals I have, I had to defend those morals. But, again, as I am getting from you, My morals are not the same morals as other people have so one way or another, its not worth debating. As long as I "practice what I preach" to myself, then I know I will be okay.

  2. Douglas Wayne Tipton

    Thanx for responding. Sorry I’m so late responding, Andrea, but I wanted to make sure I formulated a good comment to a great response. Like you, I do feel the question about same-sex marriage was a loaded one; whatever views were expressed, either for it or against it, were decided long before July 8th, the day it was posted. We have a right to express our views. And yes, other people’s morals don’t align with yours. Different? Yes. "Better"? Well, you’ve lived just long enough to know the answer to that is NO.

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