Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Horrifying Words

The other day I reposted to several atheist listservs a message sent to me by a guy who said he's a life-long dedicated atheist but just doesn't understand all the fuss about homosexuality. His essay was entitled "Must Atheists Support Homosexuality?" and, to make a long story short, his answer was "no".

However, I was interested in some of the reactions I got to his so-called "reasoning". His essay was riddled with misinformation, but mainly he just seemed to be exasperated at what he saw as the juvenile behavior of gay people. Yet I got more than one response characterizing him as "hateful" and his essay as "hate-filled".

I personally think that there are certain words that refer to really, really awful things — war, rape, torture, slavery, hatred — that people feel far too free to fling about casually, thereby cheapening their meaning. "Man, I had a rotten day at the office today. It was torture." No. It wasn't. If you'd ever ACTUALLY been tortured, you'd know the fucking difference, idiot!

I think we should reserve those words for occasions when horror and revulsion are truly warranted. War on drugs? War on poverty? War on (for Christ's sake) CHRISTMAS? All stepping stones on the path of trivializing war, until we get to the ultimate destination: Orwell's "War is peace." Anyone who ever uses those phrases should, IMHO, be sentenced to spending a week or 2 in a REAL war zone so they can see what REAL war actually looks like.

So too with "hate". It's way too easy to run across something we disagree with and just dismiss it out of hand by saying the author must be a hater. That's way easier than trying to figure out where the person could possibly be coming from. Plus which, it means that we'll be robbed of the sting that should invariably accompany real hatred when we truly do find it and want to describe it.

Ambiguity is the most insidious thief of meaning.

= = = = = =
Don't steal my words!

-- Lenny Bruce


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