28 Jun 2013

Agnosticism, or why can't we all just get along?

We should all be agnostic. That would be a sensible, honest position for humanity to take. Nobody knows there is a God. Nobody knows there is not a God. It is currently impossible to prove either way, so why aren't we all avowedly agnostic?

Few are now happy to admit they do not know, at least publicly, and increasingly fall into two camps - the atheists and the religious.  Both camps use various means to justify their belief, both taking the moral highground. Atheists cite scientific proof as making God improbable, meaning to be religious is to be intellectually inferior. The religious counter with asking for proof that God does not exist, and being smugly comfortable in their moral superiority. Both sides seek to convert, with the atheists implying to believe is to be stupid and offering liberation from religious ideals and constraint, and the religious offering spiritual comfort and acceptance. The religious are viewed with suspicion, as delusional, exploitative, dangerous or merely idiotic.

Religion asks people to suspend their rationale, to have faith. Atheism asks people to suspend belief in a deeper meaning or reason for existence, to be reductionist, and at it's extreme, nihilistic.

Understanding religion is key to understanding culture, history, art, politics. Religion has done much bad and wrong, been corrupted by man for control and gain, but also given people structure, meaning, and identity for thousands of years. Religion is not faith - many people have been religious without believing in God, and many people believe in God without showing allegiance to a particular brand of religion.
Science deals in the concrete, the known. However, I do not believe that faith and science are mutually exclusive. Science has debunked some religious beliefs, but it has not yet managed to disprove the existence of God. Scientists are not all atheists, and not all concerned with trying desperately to disprove God.

Faith is as unique as a fingerprint. No two people believe in an identical God, an identical moral compass, an identical set of ethics. I am becoming increasingly irreligious, disliking being told how to believe, how to behave, how to think. No person has the authority to tell me what God wants of me.
But my faith does not move. I believe there is a God. I don't know if it a benevolent God, I don't know if it's the God of Judaism/Christianity/Islam or some other religion, I don't know if it gives a crap what I do or say, I don't know if it's listening, but I cannot believe there is nothing out there. I cannot believe our world was an accident, that humanity is a coincidence. I've made this point before.

It may be impossible to prove the existence, or lack of existence of a God or Gods. Humanity may search for the answers forever. Faith is a personal matter - whether you have it, or not - and to challenge someone's faith can be to challenge their entire identity. It is no wonder people get so defensive and argumentative.

24 Jun 2013

All men are rapists and all women are asking for it

Trigger warning: discussion of rape scenarios

When discussing the problem of men raping women, I frequently encounter men who are concerned that all women perceive men as potential rapists. This is described as some sort of feminist misandry, an assumption that All Men are Evil.
But actually, it's not a feminist notion at all. Quite the opposite. It is MEN who have taught women that all men should be treated as potential rapists.

One in five British women have been sexually assaulted, yet only 6% of cases result in conviction. Take the following scenarios:
A woman is walking alone down the street at night dressed in a short skirt. A man  rapes her.
A woman is drunk and talks to a man in a bar. They get along well. They go off alone, whether to her house or his house, or just into the street. He rapes her.
A woman, who has had numerous sexual partners, meets someone new. He rapes her.
A woman in a relationship tells her partner no. He rapes her.
A woman walks through a park with her children in daylight. A man rapes her.

Each of these women have been raped, however the distribution of blame varies. The first woman is likely to be blamed partly for walking alone at night, partly for her dress. The second and fourth women will be lucky if they even has enough evidence to go to court, and if they do, will be very lucky to get a guilty verdict. The third woman is likely to have her entire sexual history used against her in court.The fifth woman will probably be absolved of any blame, largely due to the factors of daylight and her children being present.

Society tells women that rape is their fault. Organisations tell women that rape is their fault, by distributing advice like this. The law tells women that rape is their fault, if they were drunk. The onus is on women to spot the rapists among us and avoid them, even in official police advice.

Women are conditioned by the world around them to assume all men are rapists or suffer the consequences and take the blame. It is not misandry, it is not feminism: it is how we are told to think in order to avoid attack.

In order for men to stop feeling beleaguered and hated, more rape education needs to follow in this vein (from here, where you can find several other excellent examples):

The victim blaming that occurs with rape and the justice system, media and society, assumes that all women are always available for sex. It also assumes that men cannot help themselves: if they see a woman, they simply MUST rape her. This leads to a culture where these lies become the norm. It is poisonous to society, and it's time for a change.

17 Jun 2013

Nothing to do, but wait...

My exam was on Friday. I had such horrendous anxiety this time - for a week before, I was either manic or catatonic, panicking all the while. By the time Friday morning came round, the eerie, nauseating calm had settled. My exam was at 10am, so I didn't have to sit around clockwatching all day. I don't revise on the morning of exams, but I did lie in bed drawing mental lines between different topics in the vague hope that this would help.
The exam itself was three questions, three hours. One question was picked out of three potentials, and the other two were picked from five. I chose a question about lifestylism, one about curative and preventative medicine and one about complementary medicine integration. I think I did enough to pass, but I have no idea beyond that. I wrote legibly (ish), the essays had structure (ish) and the reply was linked to the question. I finished in two and a half hours, and wrote 2500 words. I get my results on 2nd August.

And until then, I'm a little bit lost. I've studied continuously since February 2012. When I did my last exam, I immediately started my next module, so there was no gap, no waiting, no checking Studenthome continuously. This time, I don't even get my next lot of module materials til the end of August. I feel a bit down, a bit aimless and a bit bored. I've got plenty to occupy myself with, like the numerous weddings coming up, and my eldest starting primary school, but I miss having a big solid block of learning to do.