Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Archive for the ‘Sociology’ Category

Escape from New York, or What Happens When The Good People Leave the USA?

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 7, 2011

Is the US Republican Party “becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe“?

These are the words of Mike Lofgren who retired on June 17 after 28 years as a Republican congressional staffer. It’s not often I come across an article on politics that I really want to share. This is one of them.

Here are a few more gems:

Both parties are rotten… But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP. To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. …

“…the “respectable” media have been terrified of any criticism for perceived bias. Hence, they hew to the practice of false evenhandedness. Paul Krugman has skewered this tactic as being the “centrist cop-out.” “I joked long ago,” he says, “that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read ‘Views Differ on Shape of Planet.’

escape from new york

[The] tactic of inducing public distrust of government is not only cynical, it is schizophrenic. For people who profess to revere the Constitution, it is strange that they so caustically denigrate the very federal government that is the material expression of the principles embodied in that document. This is not to say that there is not some theoretical limit to the size or intrusiveness of government; I would be the first to say there are such limits, both fiscal and Constitutional. But most Republican officeholders seem strangely uninterested in the effective repeal of Fourth Amendment protections by the Patriot Act, the weakening of habeas corpus and self-incrimination protections in the public hysteria following 9/11 or the unpalatable fact that the United States has the largest incarcerated population of any country on earth. If anything, they would probably opt for more incarcerated persons, as imprisonment is a profit center for the prison privatization industry, which is itself a growth center for political contributions to these same politicians. Instead, they prefer to rail against those government programs that actually help people. And when a program is too popular to attack directly, like Medicare or Social Security, they prefer to undermine it by feigning an agonized concern about the deficit. That concern, as we shall see, is largely fictitious. ”

As for what they really believe, the Republican Party of 2011 believes in three principal tenets I have laid out below. The rest of their platform one may safely dismiss as window dressing:
1. The GOP cares solely and exclusively about its rich contributors. The party has built a whole catechism on the protection and further enrichment of America’s plutocracy. Their caterwauling about deficit and debt is so much eyewash to con the public…”

2. They worship at the altar of Mars. While the me-too Democrats have set a horrible example of keeping up with the Joneses with respect to waging wars, they can never match GOP stalwarts such as John McCain or Lindsey Graham in their sheer, libidinous enthusiasm for invading other countries. … To borrow Chris Hedges’ formulation, war is the force that gives meaning to their lives…”

3. Give me that old time religion. Pandering to fundamentalism is a full-time vocation in the GOP. Beginning in the 1970s, religious cranks ceased simply to be a minor public nuisance in this country and grew into the major element of the Republican rank and file… around us is a prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science; it is this group that defines “low-information voter” – or, perhaps, “misinformation voter.”

The GOP cult of Ayn Rand is both revealing and mystifying. On the one hand, Rand’s tough guy, every-man-for-himself posturing is a natural fit because it puts a philosophical gloss on the latent sociopathy so prevalent among the hard right. On the other, Rand exclaimed at every opportunity that she was a militant atheist who felt nothing but contempt for Christianity. Apparently, the ignorance of most fundamentalist “values voters” means that GOP candidates who enthuse over Rand at the same time they thump their Bibles never have to explain this stark contradiction. And I imagine a Democratic officeholder would have a harder time explaining why he named his offspring “Marx” than a GOP incumbent would in rationalizing naming his kid “Rand.”

For the rest, you’ll have to read the article .

Among other things, it got me thinking about the number of US people who have emigrated to places like New Zealand because “they were tired/scared/disgusted about the direction the USA was going in.” I can count at least eight that I know personally. These are nice, liberal people who couldn’t wait to leave George Dubya’s paradise. But even with Obama in power, they are still coming. I met another couple who arrived recently for the same reasons just last week.

What I’m wondering is, what will happen if all the nice highly educated and skilled people leave the USA. Who will be left? And what will happen?

My title is from a 1981 apocalyptic film. When do you think this might become reality?

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REM | It’s The End of the World

Posted in Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Meal With A Muslim Day 2011 – September 16

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 29, 2011

Last year we celebrated the first international Meal with a Muslim Day. Won’t you join us this year?

Have a meal, or coffee.

Initiate dialogues, not hate.

If you’re a Muslim, find a non-Muslim. If you’re a non-Muslim, find a Muslim.

Spread the word, and invite him or her out for some coffee or a bite to eat and a chat (breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just a quick coffee) on September 16th. If that date isn’t convenient, another day is fine. Ramadan has finished by then. Some Muslims may choose to invite their neighbours early, for Iftar. Iftar is the breaking of the fast during Ramadan.

Tell him or her that you’re doing it for the second international Meal with a Muslim Day— a day designed to open up human conversations between Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors.

The rules: eat and drink what you want and talk about what you want. If you feel comfortable, ask each other some of the ‘hard’ questions and listen respectfully to what they say.

Josef and Santi

Yes, I know it’s late notice. I had good intentions of publicising it early this year and it crept up on me. Nevertheless, you’ll be surprised at who you can find if you ask around. I managed to find someone at the last minute. Here’s the story of My Meal With a Muslim last year.

Watch the video below where Santi (non-Muslim) and Josef (Muslim) explain their reasons behind this idea. (A positive response to that “burn a Qu’ran” pastor.)

And please spread the word! The facebook event is here http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=257460320941310

Please spread the word!

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Posted in Islam, Sociology | 5 Comments »

Your Opinion: My Blog and Privacy?

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 27, 2011

I’d like your advice. On my mind recently has been the question of how to handle the tension between sharing personal stuff on my blog and my professional career.

As you know, I’m embarked on an academic career, at least for now. Like many other academics, I like to share a little of what I’m learning or questioning here. It’s inevitable that my students, colleagues or people studying similar fields internationally will come across these works-in-progress eventually. That’s fine, I only see benefit in that.

However, I also like to keep this blog interesting, and at times I write quite personal stuff. See this post, for instance, where I expose my own moral failings. Also, as a teacher I need to be careful not to let my personal opinions colour my teaching too much. But my personal opinions expressed here on, say, paganism might contradict what I teach in class.

Most of you guys seem to appreciate the mix of interest, humour, personal and thoughtful I try to aim for. But is sharing personal stuff like this likely to cause me problems, either with sniggering students sharing my secrets, or snooty professors seeing an intellectual sap because I don’t just talk about “ontological empiricism”? (Family Guy quote, right there.) 1

While I’m asking, do you like the music videos I post? I do it most of the time, I’m just curious if anyone listens.

question

On a completely different note, Meal With a Muslim time is rapidly approaching. Has it been a year already? It’s also the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Maybe start thinking about who you could invite for coffee or a meal?

1. Thanks to Jared in the comments below for pointing out the correct quote. My brain remembered “ontological existentialism”, and I only saw that Family Guy episode last night. 😀

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This song has been going around and around in my head these last days. Have a listen, it’s beautiful and profound.
Lauren Hill | Forgive Them Father

Posted in personal, Sociology, Your Voice | Tagged: , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

The Multiverse is a Dead Parrot? Is Atheism In Trouble?

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 26, 2011

Is the Multiverse theory dead? If so, what implications might this have for belief in g0d?

I’ve written on cosmology from time to time. Recently I picked up Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos, which does a far better job of explaining M-theory than Hawking and Mlodinow’s recent book. At this point I need to send a public shout-out to Lunagrrrl, who sent me her copy of The Grand Design, which I previewed here. I had good intentions of reviewing it again, but I can’t add much to what I wrote. Get Greene’s book and skip to chapter thirteen instead, it’s much better.

The words below were originally posted last month by Santi Tafarella in his blog, Prometheus Unbound. I think this is worth sharing. Go check out the comments on his blog too.

Santi writes:

parallel multiverse

In 2008, cosmologist Bernard Carr of Queen Mary University of London, told a science journalist for Discover the following:

If there is only one universe, you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.

Carr said this because our universe appears to have numerous wildly improbable properties hard to explain by chance (especially if our known Big Bang universe is the only roll of the cosmic dice, setting its cosmological constants). Put bluntly, the cosmos appears to have been designed, and with very particular purposes in mind.

In whose mind?

Well, God’s of course!

Like an apple tree following its genetic imperatives, the universe appears to be following the imperatives of its cosmological constants. It apples galaxies, carbon-based life forms (like apple trees), and minds (like our own).

On planet Earth alone, there are 7 billion minds right now and counting.

Whooda thunk it?

Maybe Someone did.

The Discover article gave examples that illustrate our universe’s mind-boggling good luck (or creation by God, if the multiverse doesn’t come to the rescue of atheism). Here’s one:

The early universe was delicately poised between runaway expansion and terminal collapse. Had the universe contained much more matter, additional gravity would have made it implode. If it contained less, the universe would have expanded too quickly for galaxies to form.

The 2008 article that Bernard Carr was quoted in also noted this:

The credibility of string theory and the multiverse may get a boost within the next year or two, once physicists start analyzing results from the Large Hadron Collider, the new, $8 billion particle accelerator built on the Swiss-French border.

Now, fast forward to 2011. What’s the status of string theory and the multiverse in light of the data that has come in from the LHC (Large Hadron Collider)?

Answer: Not good.

Atheists, are you listening?

Theoretical physicist and mathematician Peter Woit of Columbia University, discussing this summer’s String 2011 Conference at his blog, writes that at past conferences they:

. . . often featured a call for progress towards making predictions that could be tested at the LHC [Large Hadron Collider]. With LHC data now coming in, [opening speaker David] Gross acknowledged that this had been a failure: there are no string theory LHC predictions.

None.

As for what the String 2011 Conference’s opening speaker, David Gross, said of the multiverse, here’s Peter Woit again:

Surprisingly, not a word from Gross about anthropics or the multiverse. I assume he’s still an opponent, but perhaps feels that there’s no point in beating a dying horse. Susskind isn’t there and oddly, the only multiverse-related talks are from the two speakers brought in to do public lectures (Brian Greene and Andrei Linde, Hawking’s health has kept him from a planned appearance). So the multiverse is a huge part of the public profile of the conference, but pretty well suppressed at the scientific sections. Also pretty well suppressed is “string phenomenology”, or any attempt to use string theory to do unification. Out of 35 or so talks I see only a couple related to this, which is still the main advertised goal of string theory.

A dying horse. Isn’t that sad? And remember: as goes string theory, so goes the multiverse.

And perhaps even atheism. As uber-atheist Jerry Coyne noted recently at his blog, how the multiverse debate pans out among physicists has unmistakable consequences for the God question:

[M]ultiverse theories . . . represent physicists’ attempts to give a naturalistic explanation for what others see as evidence of design.

But here’s how Peter Woit describes the String 2011 Conference summary by Jeff Harvey:

In Jeff Harvey’s summary of the conference, he notes that many people have remarked that there hasn’t been much string theory at the conference. About the landscape, his comment is that “personally I think it’s unlikely to be possible to do science this way.” He describes the situation of string theory unification as like the Monty Python parrot “No, he’s not dead, he’s resting.” while expressing some hope that a miracle will occur at the LHC or in the study of string vacua, reviving the parrot.

That the summary speaker at the main conference for a field would compare the state of the main public motivation for the field as similar to that of the parrot in the Monty Python sketch is pretty remarkable. In the sketch, the whole joke is the parrot’s seller’s unwillingness, no matter what, to admit that what he was selling was a dead parrot.

And, as for Scientific American’s recent coverage of the multiverse hypothesis, Woit is critical:

One might be tempted to criticize Scientific American for keeping this alive, but they just reflect the fact that this pseudo-science continues to have significant influence at the highest levels of the physics establishment.

The multiverse is pseudo-science. Really?

Based on what Bernard Carr said in 2008, and what Woit reports of the goings-on at the String 2011 Conference and in Scientific American, should this alert us to the possibility that atheism itself might be quietly trending in the direction of Monty Python’s dead parrot?

Monty Python | Dead Parrot Sketch

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Posted in atheism, cosmology, Philosophy, Physics, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

Religion and War. Or, “What Makes Me Happy”

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 23, 2011

Which is the most violent religion in the world?”, I asked my class recently. No doubt you have your opinions, but these people say that the religion now responsible for most wars is in fact Nationalism. That’s right, they argue that government-sponsored promotion of our “nation” is actually a religion that commits blood sacrifice by sending our young men and women to war. Sound crazy? Gaddaffi’s Libya is currently being taken over— by nationalist causes?— with the support of NATO powers. We’re near the 10th anniversary of 9/11, closely followed by the anniversary of ten years of US-sponsored war. Maybe we should consider what they say?

Here are some excerpts:

Americans live in a culture that is as religious as any that exists. In this article we contend that nationalism is the most powerful religion in the United States, and perhaps in many other countries. Structurally speaking, nationalism mirrors sectarian belief systems such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam and others that are more conventionally labeled as religious. It happens that nationalism also satisfies many traditional definitions of religion, but citizens of nation-states have religious reasons for denying it. We argue that both sectarian and national religions organize killing energy by committing devotees to sacrifice themselves to the group… Although our examples come mostly from the United States and its majority sectarian faith, and although generalization is risky, the principles we describe are broadly applicable to other enduring groups, defined as groups for which members are willing to give their lives.

… The familiar claim that a religious view of the world is characterized by a moral opposition to violence ignores a more complex reality in which faiths that most deeply bind the commitment of devotees are structures for organizing killing energy. This is true both for religions that aggressively kill the Other in the name of a deity or deities and those that pledge their devotees to self-sacrifice when confronted with violence. We shall argue that violent and so-called non-violent religions are structurally indistinguishable from a certain perspective.

click to enlarge

Click to see bigger pic.

what is really true in any community is what its members can agree is worth killing for, or what they can be compelled to sacrifice their lives for. The sacred is thus easily recognized. It is that set of beliefs and persons for which we ought to shed our own blood, if necessary, when there is a serious threat. Rituals that celebrate this blood sacrifice give expression and witness to faith. Sacrificial death thus defines both sectarian and national identity. This is the first sense in which both are species of religion…

On the whole, we misunderstand the genuinely religious character of American patriotism and the violent character of genuine religion. What distinguishes nationalism from sectarianism is not group logic, for both are religions of blood sacrifice. What distinguishes them is historical location. In the West Christianity once could kill and ask others to die in the name of its particular god. In some places it does this still. But in general in the West the power to compel believers to die passed from Christianity to the nation-state, where it largely remains…

Americans traditionally regard the nation-state as the domain of unassailable force and religion as the domain of unassailable truth. This separation of faith and force is markedly unstable and collapses completely in wartime…

If nationalism is religious, why do we deny it? … [The nationalist] god is inexpressible, unsayable, unknowable, beyond language. But that god may not be refused when it calls for sacrifice. …

Some citizens openly speak of the American flag as sacred. Can we disregard the impassioned testimony of others that it is not, and neither is the nation it represents? …

To understand how war is ritual sacrifice, recall that the raw material of society is bodies. Organizing and disposing of them is the fundamental task of all societies. The social is quite literally constructed from the body and from specific bodies that are dedicated and used up for the purpose. The enduringness of any group depends at least partly on the willingness of its members to sacrifice themselves for the continuing life of the group. The creation of national or sectarian religious sentiment depends on a common secret, which is that the underlying cost of all society is the violent death of some portion of its members. …

Does that push any buttons for ya? Respond below.

These ideas don’t make me happy, but the picture above right does. It’s the bookshelf in the study after one of my biweekly trips to the library. As Happygirl will testify, I pretty much jump up and down with glee when I have a pile with such titles as Stupa: Art, Architechtonics and Symbolism, Critical Discourse Analysis and Language Cognition or Foucault, Psychology and the Analytics of Power. I can see your eyes glazing over already 😉

There are 87 books in that photo, my current reading for two papers I’m writing. One is a Foucauldian reading of Western Buddhist meditation. A second is a paper on “civil religion”, the New Zealand state and nationalist wars. My interest in investigating civil religion and war was stimulated by Marvin and Ingle’s highly provocative article Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Revisiting Civil Religion, excerpted above.

Civil religion is an established, though contested, concept in sociology of religion. Very simply, it can be several related ideas, either a) a religion becomes a supporter of the state/political system or b) the state uses religion & religious symbolism to promote its agenda -think state prayers on Memorial Day/ANZAC day or the anniversary of 9/11. Or c) the state itself becomes a religion. The theory is debated, of course. I’m not sure I agree with it, but it provokes some interesting thoughts.

The concept of civil religion was not original to Robert Bellah, as one text asserts, nor even Rousseau although he’s generally credited with it. Nope, it looks like “Augustine’s discussion in book 6 of The City of God of Varro’s category of ‘civil theology’ ” started it all off circa 410 CE (Grosby, 2001: 114). Sociological concepts are sometimes much older than commonly thought.

So apparently if we support our nation, we’re religious, regardless of our personal beliefs.

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One of my all-time favourite tunes, from a band I would see live ANY time.
Slayer | War Ensemble

Those of you who are curious to see the actual book titles can Click to see a bigger pic in yfrog.

References

Grosby, Steven. (2001). “Nationality and Religion.” In Guibernau, Monserrat and Hutchinson, John. (eds.) (2001). Understanding Nationalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Marvin, C. & Ingle, D. (1996). “Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Revisiting Civil Religion.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion. (1996). 64(4), 767-780. http://www.asc.upenn.edu/usr/fcm/jaar.htm Web March 2011.

Posted in Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Most Important Thing About A Technology Is How It Changes People

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 29, 2011

I promised you part deux:

“I am always reminded of how small changes in the details of a digital design can have profound unforeseen effects on the experiences of the humans who are playing with it. The slightest change in something as seemingly trivial as the ease of use of a button can sometimes completely alter behavior patters.

For instance, Stanford University researcher Jeremy Bailenson has demonstrated that changing the height of one’s avatar in immersive virtual reality transforms self-esteem and social self-perception. Technologies are extensions of ourselves, and, like the avatars in Jeremy’s lab, our identities can be shifted by the quirks of gadgets. It is impossible to work with information technology without also engaging in social engineering.

One might ask, “If I am blogging, twittering, and wikiing a lot, how does that change who I am?” or “If the ‘hive mind’ is my audience, who am I?”

12 step addict

The above is a quote from another of my recent purchases, Jason Lanier’s You Are Not A Gadget. Recently I’ve been studying social thinker Bruno Latour, who considers that societies are made up networks that include non-human elements. Thus, your computer could be considered a ‘person’ when you are engaged with it. Alternatively, another French sociologist, Jacques Ellul, spent much of his life concerned with the way in which technology overwhelms and de-humanizes us. I have no opinion as yet. But it is pretty darn interesting, don’t you think? If you’d like some musical inspiration, check out the classic track below by Styx.

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Styx | Mr Roboto

Posted in Science, Sociology | 1 Comment »

Why Stay If You’re Gay?

Posted by spritzophrenia on May 25, 2011

A number of you said you’d be interested in reading the proposal for my Masters’ pilot study, “Why Stay if You’re Gay?” (Homosexual Participation and Identity in the Church) . Well, here’s the introduction:

Western society has undergone significant social changes around homosexuality in the last thirty years. In New Zealand the Homosexual Law Reform Bill (1986) decriminalised homosexual acts, more recently the Civil Union Act (2004) gave marriage-like rights to New Zealand gay (and other) couples wishing to commit in this way. In the same period there has been change around homosexuality and the church. While change in ‘liberal’ and ‘mainstream’ Christian churches has been ongoing for some time, there is evidence of greater acceptance of gay congregants in US evangelical (Falsani, 2011) and post-evangelical ’emergent’ circles. “It sounds so churchy, but I felt like God spoke to my heart and said ‘[homosexuality] is not a sin.” (Pastor Jay Bakker, cited in Lee, 2006). In New Zealand, similar changes are occurring; “Gay Christian Alliance is a group of gay Christians living in New Zealand who wish to spread the message that it’s OK to be gay and Christian” (2011).

I’ve come across a number of gay and lesbian people in the Christian Church. My particular question is why they stay– it seems fairly clear why one would leave. What do they get out of religious faith? What are their motivations? How do they see their identity as gay and Christian?

A couple of comments: It’s only the proposal for a short thesis (10,000 words). The full Masters’ thesis is around 40,000 words. Due to academic-speak some of it would need a bit more unpacking for those who aren’t familiar with the ideas. Also note that “sociology of deviance” doesn’t imply a moral judgement, it’s merely a way of talking about people perceived as different, and can be questioned in it’s own right.

Initially, I didn’t particularly want to study sexuality, or gays in particular. I want to study sociology of religion, this is merely a way in. Having said that, and having now read a number of studies by gay academics, it’s a fascinating area in itself.

To add to the ethical notes in the proposal, I can imagine lesbigays[1] saying somewhat tiredly, “Oh, here come the sociologists with their surveys again.” To be part of a minority means you get questioned by all parts of society, including academia. I have a number of lesbigay and trans friends, and sometimes I feel a bit weird “studying them”.

Lastly, here’s a humorous video I came across the other day:
Gay scientists discover the Christian gene

[1] “In this essay I am trying out the term ‘les-bi-gay’. I am aware that it risks the problems we had before: some people are not explicitly included, and some of those who are may feel at risk of incorporation by hegemonic male gayness.” (From a paper by Sinfield, a gay academic, 1997: 201)

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Posted in Christianity, Emergent, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Is It May Already?

Posted by spritzophrenia on May 5, 2011

Hi all, and a special welcome to the new subscribers. It seems like an age since I last wrote from the land of Spritzophrenia.

Some personal goings-on first. It’s less than 8 weeks until our baby is born. Happygirl is getting extremely round, and is somewhat physically uncomfortable, but all is well and as normal as these things go.

I found out two weeks ago that my younger sister Carol has cancer. She’s not quite forty years old, and it’s serious. It’s colon cancer, with some nodes in the liver and a tumor has spread to one ovary. She goes into surgery tomorrow to remove the growths, and within three weeks they hope to start 9 months of chemotherapy. Things are not good, but the doctors have also said it’s potentially cure-able. All is not lost. Needless to say, I was quite upset after she rang me. (You might want to go back to my short series on sickness and pain.) Strangely, in the last week I’ve become very confident that she’ll be able to beat this thing, and I feel peaceful. I don’t know how much stock to put in such feelings, but those of you who pray are welcome to do so. (Yes, I did.)

My postgrad sociology study is going very well, however there’s a huge workload which doesn’t leave me with much energy to blog. I do have a lot of thoughts, theories and mental meanderings to share with you, it’s just a question of when. I’ve just finished my thesis proposal on “Why Stay if You’re Gay?” (Homosexual Participation and Identity in the Church). Would you like me to put it up here for you to read?

sunrise woman

Among other things, I’ve been reading up on Queer theory. You may or may not know that the word “heterosexual” was only coined a couple of centuries ago. Some people (notably a chap called Foucault) argue that the conception of heterosexuality was very different before this. As part of les-bi-gay studies, the study of heterosexuality has emerged. Given that I’m studying gay Christian men for my thesis I find it enlightening to look at things from the other side, so to speak.

Here’s some thoughts from one writer (Richard Dyer, in a 1997 paper, for what it’s worth). What do you think of these?

Dyer considers heterosexuality and homosexuality are not acts, or an identity, but what we desire. “Heterosexuality is not man-woman coitus, but the desire for it and/or the fact of being identified by the desire for it.”

Here’s his list of five attributes of heterosexuals:
1. Difference is at the heart of sexual object choice.
2. Difference is conceptualised as oppositeness.
3. Difference is, in fact, power imbalance. (Eroticised power imbalance)
4. Sexuality has something to do with procreation. (For many religions sexual reproduction is the purpose of sexuality.)
5. Sexual practice is an affirmation of one’s identity as normal.

The notion of race is profoundly heterosexual. Race is a way of categorising bodies that reproduce themselves.

Society enforces a “compulsory heterosexuality” (Adrienne Rich).

So there we go. How do those of you who are hetero feel about these? Identify with any of it?

Till next time,

Jonathan

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Tori Amos | Crucify

Posted in agnostic, hardship, personal, Sociology, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , | 24 Comments »

Expanding the Mind

Posted by spritzophrenia on March 11, 2011

Apropos of nothing, here are some sites I enjoy. I used to have RSS feeds from them until I discovered how much bandwith my RSS reader sucked. Some of them I haven’t looked at in months, and it’s a salient reminder to return. In no particular order:

Science and Theology
Justin is a biologist who writes thoughtfully about religion and science.

“When I’m not watching sports or laughing at life, I enjoy reading and writing on science & religion/theology, with interests as of late that include brain/mind, evolution, the soul, and what it means to be human. I am deeply committed to science but believe that it is not the sole provider of truth. I resonate the most with the “scientist-theologians”, the most well-known being John Polkinghorne, Ian Barbour, and Arthur Peacocke. The pursuit is both an academic and personal one for me and I write from within the framework of Christian faith.”

Prometheus Unbound
Santi is an agnostic academic who quite happily skewers both atheists and the religious when it suits him. He’s good at referencing great literature. I read him regularly.

Huffington Post Religion
In an age when many newspapers no longer have dedicated religion reporters, it’s heartening to find such a good resource on a popular site. As I’ve said before, I don’t think religion or spirituality is going away anytime soon, much as committed atheists might wish it so. There’s articles on atheism here too.

reading

Guruphiliac
“Revealing self-aggrandizement and superstition in self-realization since 2005.” Reading this, you could be forgiven for thinking every guru on the planet is dodgy as fuck. I think the writers are probably followers of “Eastern mysteries”, but I appreciate their candid exposure of frauds.

Saudiwoman
Thoughtful blog by a Saudi woman. What more do I need to say?

The Piety that Lies Between
Eric Reitan teaches philosophy, and calls himself a “progressive christian”. He tends to write long posts, but it’s worthwhile stuff.

Mark Vernon
Another agnostic, Mark Vernon wrote After Atheism, a book I rather like. He’s an agnostic theist, or agnostic christian who writes about all kinds of cultural-philosophical stuff.

Barth’s Notes
One of the most respected news and investigative journalism sites on religion, particularly the more obscure stuff. He knows his subject, and is remarkably fair. I still have no idea what his personal beliefs are.

Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture
Sociology and media studies for those who like dance music! Doof doof doof.

Alternet
When you’re bored with news from the big boys, get your news from the radical fringe. Who turn out to be not so radical or fringe-y after all. In fact, some of this looks eminently sensible and well-reported.

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Buggles | Video Killed the Radio Star

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A Decade Out

Posted by spritzophrenia on March 10, 2011

As I expected, my blogging has been a little less regular now the semester has started. So far I’m really enjoying it. I’m doing four sociology courses– a theory paper, one on “Settler Societies”, one on analysing documents and a research paper.

Thanks for all your suggestions a couple weeks back. I’ve decided my research topic will be

“Gay and Lesbian experiences of remaining in the Christian Church”.

I’ll be surveying as many as I can contact, and interviewing four to six people. My particular interest will be in why they stay– it seems fairly clear why one would leave. I suspect my topic may end up being further refined, eg perhaps lumping men and women together isn’t going to work. Theoretical angles will include things like identity, deviance*, family, power, religion, sexuality, gender… I’d like to use Foucault a lot, and perhaps Durkheim. I’m discovering lots of writing in this area already, so my literature review will be easy. Happily, it now looks like I can take a sociology of religion angle.

* Note, “deviance” in sociology is not a derogatory term, it’s intended for any study of groups who go against a perceived societal norm. Though I have my own opinions on this, and prefer “difference” as a term.

For the text analysis course, we had to write a short piece on “What we hope to see in our lives in ten years time”, which we’ll be analysing as a class next week. I thought I’d share mine with you:

books

Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.
~ Niels Bohr

Jonathan A Decade Out

I’m surprised to discover I have clear ideas on what I’d like to see happen in the next decade of my life, as I haven’t been the sort of person who’s had definite plans or goals in the past.

Foremost is the baby we’re having in June, hoping that will go well and my relationship with HappyGirl will continue to grow. In ten years my new son or daughter will be that many years older, and I hope it will be as satisfying and joy-filled as the first ten years with MasterT, my now twelve-year-old son. In ten years he’ll have left home; I hope we’ll have a close relationship through his teens.

This year I’ve embarked on an academic journey. In nine more years I hope to have earned my PhD and found a teaching position at a university. Along with that I hope an income beyond the student struggle will arrive, although remuneration isn’t foremost in my mind.

I’ve just had my first music released by a real record label, and in ten years I’d love to have the chance to play music around the world, or at least in New Zealand. To be able to regularly play festivals would be fun.

I guess I’ll always be a writer. Perhaps I will have published a book by then, and I hope my blog has a solid following concurrent with that.

Who knows if we’ll be living permanently overseas, but perhaps we’ll have spent two or three years living somewhere sunny and dry; Arizona, New Mexico or certain places on Australia’s East coast spring to mind.

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Posted in agnostic, personal, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »