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On the lack of empathy

December 29, 2012

Since I’ve been on vacation this week (it explains the lack of an online presence), I have not been checking out my usual internet haunts, much. Instead I have been running errands, doing yard work, playing some WoW, that sort of thing. Unfortunately I chose today to see what was going on at Daily Kos.

There’s a pretty strong community of skeptics there, but there are also some nasty believers, and one of them who goes by ‘Timaeus’ apparently exploded late on Thursday evening. I’ve considered the chances that he will come looking for this blog and I figure it’s unlikely. In any case, I am entitled to speak my mind about it here. This space is as mine as any webspace gets. If he does stop by to comment, don’t expect to see it. I have the moderation power here.  🙂

Anyway. He has spent the last day, well, dealing with the fallout of his explosion. And I have seen some folks I otherwise respect engage in some disappointing and selective…empathy.

Anyone who writes up this sort of call-out against skeptics is liable to get some hostile responses…

Of course, the fundamentalist atheists like Sam Harris are gathering like locusts, insulting and attacking and mocking (as you can see if you just google “Eben Alexander”).  They don’t like having their religious faith questioned.  They’re wrong.

He then followed up in the comments by attacking his critics, insulting them, calling them a gang and worse, as if some group of skeptics is out to get him. He has since tried to explain his antics as the result of drunken posting, although he went on insisting that a gang was out to get him, that he didn’t deserve most of what he got. He’s also apparently looking at some risky and painful surgery.

The problem with these excuses, well…I’ve seen this fellow get nasty before, and there was no apparent booze, no stress, no surgery that I knew of, to explain it away. Having observed his behavior for a good while it is all of a piece. He’s hostile to skepticism and skeptics, atheists of course in particular, and a…passionate defender of the catholic church. Since I write about the RCC at times, I have some personal experience with his nastiness.

And yet there are folks willing to give him a pass, chalk it up to stress or alcohol, and even attack the likes of me (however indirectly) for lacking the empathy to let his supposed drunken ranting to slide.

And after all that — what does he apologize for?

My fault.  It’s foolish for me to engage that group. I apologize to everybody for my persistence. There are so many better ways to deal with that kind of criticism, much as I disrespect it.

Persistence. Not that he may have said some offensive, or insulting things, or called out the skeptical community (like always). Nothing about that. Nothing to indicate something…contrite, like…maybe he didn’t mean it. So apparently he did. Which in short puts me in a gang of hypocritical, fundamentalist atheists who nevertheless somehow have faith in their skepticism. In a gang of locusts who lashed out in anger and against the rules of the site, lashed out against a bunch of comments that didn’t merit the response — never mind that they did.

Never mind the subject — near-death experience — with which I have a bit of personal experience, myself. Never mind the year that it shook me, the time it took me to deal with it and move on, no help from…well, almost anyone. I expect the author of this ‘proof of heaven’ book got pretty much what I got. Everyone around more than willing to offer interpretation rather than reason. More than willing to put that experience under their lens of faith and invite him to join in, like they did with me. I nearly did. It’s tempting. The experience is very compelling. It’s hard to describe experiences that are so unreal and yet so indistinguishable from reality. I still struggle with the impulse to read more into it than I should. One person helped me; without her, who knows? I might have joined a blasted church.

But never mind that. Spit on that. Dismiss it out of hand. Condescend, even. Those foolish atheists and their ‘religious faith’.

They don’t like having their religious faith questioned.  They’re wrong.

No, this fellow’s mind conjured up heaven and that simply must be. Never mind that my experience had a different lesson to teach. Dismiss my own. Discard it. Accept the heavenly one. It suits the majority, the xian society. Where was the empathy for me, the understanding, the willingness to let me follow my own path? Sky-fairy forbid! Never mind that. No, instead empathy is corrupted into advice, encouragement, guidance, interpretation; whatever it takes to get me on their path, and all the while I’m sure everyone thinks they’re doing right, they’re showing…empathy.

I suppose this little exercise shows that there’s not much to trust about empathy, as it too is subject to interpretation. It’s my own interpretation that makes me write this here, and not write it up as a diary on Daily Kos, call out this festering catholic pustule and let fly there and damn the consequences. I’m just venting…ranting…in a safer space. I wonder if I would write this there, if I were drunk enough or stressed out. Perhaps it’s better if I don’t find out.

And to think, after all this bitching, moaning, insulting and complaining by the believer, he was defending a foolish book that had this to say.

Dr. Alexander received three key messages from God, several times:  1. We are loved. 2. We have nothing to fear. 3. We can do no wrong.

Yes, all of us can disagree at length with all of that.  Myself, I believe it.

We can do no wrong. The irony, it’s too much! Why complain about some skeptics criticizing him? Why write again just to complain further if they can do no wrong? Well, then. He may insult atheists and basically call me a hypocrite, a skeptic with ‘religious faith’ who gets mad when it’s questioned. He may say that, claim that — baselessly. I at least can settle for demonstrating his hypocrisy. He fails completely at living up to this tenet of ‘we can do no wrong’ that he supposedly believes.

Anyway, won’t be in any big hurry to dive back into DK and start commenting and writing a whole lot just yet. I have some vacation left to enjoy. No sense ruining it further!

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