Monthly Archives: August 2015

On being an Ignostic

It would be pointless to try to offer evidential proof to support the core propositions of religion. The whole point of religion is faith: the commitment of an individual to beliefs that are inherently unprovable, but which provide a guide to social practice in day to day life. This, in essence, is the opposite side of the coin to the proposition: science can tell you everything there is to know about the universe, except how one should live in it.

By saying this, I am not stating that we all must have religious beliefs in order to fill the existential gap in our lives. That, I think, would be unauthentic. However, I would suggest that religious faith is one answer to basic moral and social questions that people sometimes turn to, and as such provides great value. This route does not assert rational answers; just internally coherent ones. There are other routes, ethics being one.

Atheism, in the form of sets of negative beliefs about religion, can be equally irrational at times, since it spends most of its energy mixing scientific thinking into the non-scientific religious domain, and in the process missing the whole point: faith needs no proof, and is therefore outside of science’s reach. Atheism punches at clouds.

It therefore seems to me that those who are not adherents of a faith, rationally have only one option: to understand the nature of religion as cultural practice, wherein its propositions are purely symbolic. Treated in any other manner, religious propositions become incomprehensible (hence my long-established ignosticism… sic).

The beautiful people

I have a very beautiful friend who is a Muslim, and is from Lebanon. I have a very beautiful friend who is from Malaysia and who is trans. I have a very beautiful friend who is from South Africa. I have beautiful gay friends. I have students from every part of the world. All are beautiful, wonderful folk who bring amazing thoughtfulness, variety, and joy to the world. I really mean that. Without them I would be much diminished.

My best girl is from the Southern States of America, and some day may live here with me.

So when someone says the current government should ‘put British people first’, do they REALLY mean only the white, acceptable, Christian, average… and extremely dull individuals? How long do you have to be here before you get accepted as ‘British’? I’ve been here 59 years, and sometimes (when the boneheads are at their worst) I think I’d rather be somewhere else.

The Tyranny of the Norm

I think the worst thing that people-of-difference have to deal with is not the bigots. They’re fairly rare, usually easy to spot (look for foaming at the mouth, bad haircuts, and lots of money…), and easy to disregard.

No, the big problem is the ‘Norms’. These are the folk who tend to the unwavering belief that there is a set ‘normal’ types of human being. These normal types are usually someone like themselves (whoever they may be). Averaged across national communities, and fostered by unscrupulous politics, ‘normalcy’ creates a totalitarianism that is so obvious to those who adhere to it, that any challenge is deemed illogical, and even subversive. It’s hard to speak out when you’re criticising concepts that everyone takes for granted.

So for instance, there is a ‘normalcy’ of race: white people are fine, black people are just about OK, Asian people are sort of fine-ish, maybe Roma are not very OK, and if you happen to be living in ‘The Jungle’ at Calais… well, don’t ask… The tide changes, the dominant hegemonic view goes unchallenged, and is internalised via unsubversive social and educational systems, and supported by a hysterical media (always out for a quick buck in a world where their power is threatened by the anarchic Internet).

For transgender people this issue is writ large in the issue of ‘passing’ Passing is about being taken for the person you are in your chosen gender without attracting adverse attention. It’s about ‘fooling all of the people, all of the time’ — and I don’t mean that as a criticism, but as an illustration of the perplexity such a concept produces in individuals struggling to find a place for themselves in the world.

Isn’t ‘passing’ all about the tyranny of the norm? Isn’t it about dealing with the agenda of the many who think their world is under threat because they encounter someone who does not quite fit their concept of what being human is? Isn’t it about playing a game by someone else’s rules, rules that the person-of-difference had no hand in establishing?

If you want to be truly free, then embrace difference, both in yourself and others. Only with authenticity will you truly find liberation.

A terrible shadow…

On this day, 70 years ago, a ‘gun type’ nuclear weapon (one of the first of its kind) fell from a B29 plane over Hiroshima. It was an air-burst device, with a nominal yield of around 15,000 tons of TNT. It destroyed five square miles of the city (untouched by conventional bombing) and killed over 150,000 people, both in the immediate effects and the legacy that followed. This was a very inefficient weapon by modern standards, with less than 2% of it material contributing to the explosion. The bomb ushered in the age in which we now live: the nuclear age, where weaponry is not just local, but has global implications.

I have lived all my life in the shadow of that bomb