I have thought many times, over the years, about points of view, or perspective even. One of my favorite thinkers, Friedrich Nietzsche, has been called by many a ‘perspectivist,’ and I think that this is a fair description of his style. Essentially, Nietzsche seems to be interested in shoving around our perspectives on issues so that we can see other points of view, usually with the goal to start to see the issue as from above, or a transcendent point of view. He did like the metaphor of living upon a mountain, descending to try and show us what he has learned while living up above.
An arrogant metaphor, perhaps, but perhaps true nonetheless.
And perspective is a complex issue, especially when it comes to looking at issues from different frames. In recent discussions with some rather conservative-minded people, it is clear that we simply see different things in different ways. The ways to come to some understanding are difficult, and perhaps worthy (if possible). There have been attempts to analyze such differences (here’s one by George Lakoff), and certainly the “culture wars” discussed over the last 10 years and more have left many niches for many other explanations for how differently we see the world.
But today I want to address something a bit simpler than that; I want to address a video that I watched a couple of days ago that struck me as odd.
It is this video:
Is this inspirational or cautionary?
Could this video be played, unedited, in front of a Christian congregation and then an atheist audience and be seen in very different ways?
I think so.
The creator of this video, The Thinking Atheist, may be aware of this duality, and may have created the video with that duality in mind. It is an example of many things that many Christians and many atheists will look at and see very differently. It is not unlike my reaction to hearing sermons, when I visit churches. I’m generally appalled by what others find powerfully inspirational. I find the basic theology of Christianity disgusting, inhuman, and am thus unable to see how others find it beautiful, let alone true.
(This is not to say that truth is never ugly).
That is, it is not only factually incorrect, from my point of view, it’s perverse! Even if it were true; if the God of the Bible were real, I could not worship Him. I could not praise a story that was so absurd, poisonous, and wretched. I see it very differently, apparently, than Christians do. But now not only do I not see the crucifixion as a sacrifice, but I see it as shockingly absurd. It is clear that my perspective has shifted on this issue, and it has happened over the last few years.
Let me step back for a moment here, and catch my breath. See, Christianity was not always perverse to me. In fact, I used to find it sort of interesting, fascinating even. The narrative of the sacrificial son and the redemption was never actually inspiring, but I saw it as at least artful. What changed?
I’m not sure. This will have to remain a point for further thought, I think.
I would love to hear comments about how things such as this video could bee seen very differently by different people.
3 thoughts on “Point of View”
“Is this inspirational or cautionary?”
Its neither. As an atheist I see it as rather crudely drawn caricature (with good production values) of a particular Christian sect. I doubt many devout Christians would see it much differently since this is not of the character of their religious experience even if it superficially encapsulates some its doctrine.
Thinking about it further I’m forced to wonder what was the creator’s point? Christianity has already been parodied and pilloried by revealing its “naked truth” hundreds of times with little or no effect on the believers so why do it again? Is Thinking Atheist that ignorant of faithful Christians?
Why would somebody waste their time on a project like this? Sometimes the arrogance and self-righteousness of Christians annoys me. But what annoys me more is this sense among many internet atheists that they have an impact or that the SHOULD have some kind of impact. That they’re engaging in some kind of important mission or struggle and that they are thus important for doing so. They’re not.
I… um… actually, I agree with Tomkinson. About the video. Specifically about how most Christians would probably respond to the video. Okay, pretty much just with the first paragraph he wrote. I thought about posting the video to my fb page with no comment, just to see what kind of response it would get, since my “friends” are pretty evenly dispersed on the belief/unbelief spectrum and most of them don’t know where I stand. But I don’t think I’d get any, “Wow, this is so inspirational!” comments from believers. It pitches the tough ideas about Christianity, but skips the positive, life-affirming ones (there are some.) It’s basically an emotional straw man, and I don’t think any of my friends would be fooled.
Now, Tomkinson: it strikes me from your last paragraph that you’re more bothered by the thought that Shaun and other vocal atheists think they’re important, than by any specific objection to the things they say. Let me point something out: there are a lot of self-important windbags in the world (I don’t think Shaun is one, but you of course are free to disagree with me), and the proper thing to do with them is to ignore them. Trying to deflate them only aggravates their sense of importance (as it should, for why would you spend so much time and attention on them if they weren’t important?) and suggests that you, the would-be deflater, are threatened by their confident sense of self. If you want respect, go find your own project.
An emotional straw man is a good way to describe the video. I wonder how I or Shaun would react to a video that started like:
“You are inherently worthless, life has no intrinsic meaning whatsoever”
“it was just a random accident and you are a descendant of primordial slime destined to live out your life mostly doing the bidding of tiny selfish genes whose only goal is to reproduce themselves”
“But while the genes that control you can reproduce, you cannot. You will ultimately end up as nothing more than a heap of rotten maggot-ridden flesh with all the knowledge and memories you’ve accumulated erased forever”
As for annoying atheists, Shaun is definitely not the worst offender although some of his friends are like Margaret and Staks. Their self-importance is annoying in and of itself but I’m also unconvinced of many of the premises they take for granted (e.g. America would be a better place with fewer Christians and more atheists). I don’t spend that much time trying to deflate them I’d say maybe an hour a weak at most. Like when I argued with this fool:
The idea that I’m threatened by their confidence is laughable, I’m an arrogant prick myself, no I’m annoyed by their phenomenal ignorance of law and history, childish publicity stunts, dangerous irrational beliefs, that they’ve made atheists into a whiny self-appointed victim group and most of all that they pretend to represent me.
Also the most famous atheists like Christopher Hitchens constantly lie and disinform the public on religious matters and other atheists don’t call them out on it. That is shameful.
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