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…