Monday, August 09, 2010

Anne Rice's Facebook Followers Irrationally and Intolerantly Attack Yours Truly for Criticizing the Lack of Adequate Reasoning for Her Deconversion

This is a follow-up to my earlier piece, The Deconversion of Novelist Anne Rice: Straw Men, "Baby / Bathwater" Mentality, Sexual Liberalism, and an Irrationally Held, Apologetics-Free Faith. Anne Rice noted my paper on her Facebook page, on 8-8-10:

Here's a rather critical, and well written discussion of my leaving organized religion for Christ. [she then provided the title and a link]

I responded in a comment under the earlier post:

I don't think I have speculated all that much. She has laid out the reasons herself. I'm entitled, as an orthodox Catholic and apologist, to analyze what she has said, and why it doesn't fly and doesn't make much sense.

Isn't it odd how some folks seem to think that any reason to leave Catholicism or larger Christianity is good and profound, but any criticism of same must be judgmental and presumptuous?

That's assuming what it is trying to prove, of course . . . that being a Christian is somehow a "bad" thing, so that leaving it is good. (8-9-10)

I commend her for reading my post, noting it, making the link, and even complimenting my writing (I am humbled by that, coming from such a well-known novelist). That was classy, given how critical I was.

For my part, I want to stress that this is nothing personal whatsoever against her. It is a principled disagreement about a public declaration that has widespread consequences (and therefore is worthy of a critique). I would enjoy corresponding or even talking to her in person, I think. It doesn't have to be a personal, acrimonious thing. I reject the notion of thinking that because we strongly disagree with someone, somehow we must despise or even hate them. This is simply not true, and self-evidently so. And I believe I prove this in hundreds of my own dialogues with people I disagree with.

But some folks don't seem to be able to comprehend that, and so in the name of tolerance and lovey-dovey ersatz "togetherness," I am now being trashed up and down for expressing my Catholic views. I am supposedly intolerant (which is untrue) and so I must be treated with the utmost contempt and intolerance. Somethin' just ain't right there, is it?

I'm not supposed to do give any counter-opinion. I'm supposed to just lay down and die and wither at the sight of a critique of not only Catholicism but all institutionalized religion. If I don't don't crawl in a hole and "shut up," it proves (beyond any doubt) that I am an intolerant jerk who has no charity or grace . . .

See how it works? We Christians must never get too uppity.

And again I hasten to add that these thoughts are not coming from Anne Rice (though some things she says may be seen as implying them to some extent, in a broad fashion, insofar as she extrapolates from extreme fringe types to all organized Christianity), but rather, from a lot of those who are defending her decision. (8-9-10)

The comments received thus far are remarkable and astounding insofar as they are almost completely irrational and devoid of any counter-point reasoning whatever. It's all personal attack and sanctimonious lecturing and/or subjective, relativistic mush. In my opinion this confirms (if not proves) my point all the more -- rather spectacularly so --: she seems to have reverted to Catholicism in a fideistic, irrational fashion. She left the faith in the same fashion, and those who defend it exhibit the same irrational mindset. It's all of a piece.

Also quite striking and ironic is the fact that all of a sudden, her followers now savage me when I am simply defending the Church that Anne Rice herself gave public allegiance to as recently as two weeks ago. How is it, I wonder, that all these "followers" can switch on a dime and now attack the Catholic Church with such vigor? It seems to me that they have more allegiance to Anne Rice than they do to Christianity itself. If she stops on a dime and changes direction, they do, too, right along with her: both blissfully free of sufficient reasoning to do so. This is akin to the behavior of those in brainwashing religious cults, not rational free agents who ponder deeply the most important things in life (spiritual matters). Indeed, one of her followers, Alice B. Toklas, states this outright (in replying to my paper):

I think your reasons are valid, and justified. I would also support you compleately if tomorrow you said to everyone, "I'm returning to Christianity." Just like I supported you before you left. Unconditional means unconditional.

First, we saw some replies on my own blog, of folks who want to defend Anne Rice, and who came over here after reading about my post on her site (comments of mine below will be in blue, and bracketed):

Jason: Until The Church changes more people will be following in her footsteps, especially where civil - not religious - gay marriage is concerned. The Church could take some lessons from Anne. [it is precisely the fact that we don't follow whims and fashions and popular trends, that we have a credible claim of presenting unchanging moral truths] (8-8-10)

Eastiopians: You are so judgmental [and of course he isn't], and could use more Christ and less religion in your beliefs as well. Why are you so threatened by her desire to stick with Christ but walk away from organized religion [why is every mere difference of opinion so often immediately "psychologized" these days?] Why does that make you feel weak and need to fight for this organization at the expense of her character as a person and a believer? If you truly believe in what you are doing and where you are, then you don't need to knock others down to show your support for what you are doing. Where is your grace? (8-8-10)

Greg Gibbs . . . You lack understaning, humility, humblness [is there a difference between the last two things?] and are all too quick to judge. I am not here to remind you what is sin and what is not...I am telling you that when people are trying to illegalize what they (and God?) percieve as 'sin'..they are taking "God-Given Free Will' away from others...not a very Christian thing to do. Can you love those who are not putting change in your pocket or persecute you? Having what you percieve as an all devine relationship with God almighty does not constitute you having 'Love for mankind' by constantly feeling the need to wash the blood of others off your hands.' How important you must be ;) Your article is well written, kudos on that. It 'lacks' non-biased judgement for all too like-minded persuasive ears. Come before your Christ as a child. Sadly, these days most pulpits are nothing more than 'meal-tickets' for hot heads who feel 'the calling.' God love the 'Relgious Narcissists' lol (dont expect to see this posted without a few typical arguments in which I am prepared for, if it's even posted at all) [surprise! Here it is again] (8-9-10)

Jason at least was civil (kudos). Now let's look at many of the 83 comments (as of this writing) over on Anne Rice's Facebook page, under this entry (see if you can locate any cogent reasoning, in-between all the cogent attacks).

Susan Roberts What a ass that guy is. I personally don't believe in hell, but that we can create our own hell here on earth. I also believe that we choose the life we live before we are born for the benifit of raising our souls awareness, it is the only way I can justify all the pain and suffering in the world throughout our history. I also believe that the Bible is a book written by men not God. Organised religion is just another form of slavery. [and disorganized religion is just another form of modern mindless silliness]

Alice B Toklas I tried to read this before starting my paperwork, but I don't really want to hear all that. I started hearing Charlie Browns teacher in my head,. " Brahh, Blah, bla, baaa.."

Liz Hughes Wiley . . . the argument....yeah, well-thought-out within a very narrow sphere. It becomes a rant after a while, to me. Too much picking on your Bay Area background (horreur!), your hotsy early writings (ScanDAL!! What sensuality from...a woman!!) [see my comment one entry below] It's a case where the person is using you to represent something that you probably don't even resemble -- says more about the writer -- but then, writing usually does, doesn't it?

Troy Hawkins I thought this was absolute bilge, It starts out that no possible reason could be valid for leaving the church, He accuses Ms Rice of bing dismissive but that is a pretty dismissive statement, She never said that all Christians hate homo...sexuals. . . . As for writing about her erotica writings etc, That was pure character assassination. The whole article was nasty [I actually wrote only one short sentence about that, and didn't (technically) condemn it. It was noted that Rice thought the Church was "sex-obsessed". I made one sharp, ironic, turn-the-tables retort: "this coming from a former hippie and author of porn and erotica!?" I didn't even initially describe it as "porn." That was the word used in other articles. I know nothing about her writings; having never read them. But for one who has written erotica and "porn" to carp on about Catholics being "sex-obsessed" was far too precious and humorous and utterly beyond whatever powers I possess, to resist . . . ]

Kevin Higgs If I had to believe to suit and please this Right-Wing idiot who wrote these comments about you, I would leave the Christian Faith, too. Thank God he doesn't speak for me. I am a follower of Jesus... I would have nothing to do with any thing that man is affiliated with.

MaryEllen O'Brien I'm suspicious of anyone who proudly states "I don't read fiction" [I didn't "proudly" state it at all. I simply stated it. In fact, many times, I have stated that this non-interest in fiction is an admitted deficiency of mine. Therefore, I could hardly be "proud" of it] to lead off a discussion of a writer's faith, about whom he knows nothing [it is irrelevant how much of Rice's writing I know, in critiquing her own stated reasons for no longer being a Catholic]. Except apparently just enough to fully judge the writer as anti-intellectual. Wow! [I never said she was "anti-intellectual"; I argued that in matters of faith she did not sufficiently apply reason to it; in other words, she was a fideist] Fiction is the source of great inspiration and is more truthful than much non-fiction. And arguably, much of the Bible is in truth, fictional, albeit to make a truth point. [I totally agree that fiction is a great thing. Just because I don't read it doesn't nullify that point. I never ever implied such a silly thing. My two favorite writers: C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton wrote much fiction. But I prefer their non-fiction] Everything starts with a story, as Joseph Campbell said. If the blogger believes all the dogma and doctrine passing forth from the throne of Peter (Peter would be appalled at that language) he is indeed a reader of fiction. And can't seem to separate the two. [Right. Great non-argument . . . ] Sit him next to someone who proudly and with superiority [really?] also says, "I don't watch t.v.," and let them pontificate amongst themselves while the rest of us go read some darn good stories. [I get stories through the medium of film, which is based on stories. If not for film, I'm sure I would read fiction. But since film is here, I prefer that medium (with profuse apologies to MaryEllen for my shortcomings). Different strokes. I'm not judging anyone who likes fiction. But I sure am being judged, ain't I? It's all perfectly irrelevant to the dispute at hand] Jesus, I recall, was a master storyteller. And the parables were, ahem, fictionalized accounts intended to portray a truth. [absolutely, but so what? I never denied this (nor would I ever), so it is a non sequitur]

D Craig Graham First of all...."Biblical Evidence"....and this is backed up how? [by the Bible, of course!] Duh! . . .] A bunch of guys writing their version? Men are disappointing...and (sadly) I believe when we die...the moment our eyes shut...we realize, " was all long."

Bea Westrate The author seems to think we need to learn something and he's the only one who can teach us. [no evidence presented for this extraordinarily judgmental conclusion . . .] Fortunately we also know many things about these matters. He also claims to know Anne's process of returning to and leaving the church. [no; I only claim to know her stated reasons, and I do draw what I believe are fairly plausible deductions from her own remarks] Unfortunately he ignores the only evidence that matters -- Anne's own thoughtful, reasoned comments. [that's exactly what I have examined, so I have no idea what this statement means] Not only that, the author acts like his beliefs and definitions are the only correct ones. I've known many people like that; every one of them was unsure of themselves. [more pop pseudo-psychoanalysis . . .] I found the title amusing. There is no Biblical evidence for any of the Christian denominations, including the Baptist church I grew up in. Faith is always independent of church attendance. [right; "always" huh?] When it comes to matters of faith we answer to the Goddess (or who/what you believe in). [if there is a God, surely He is a Goddess . . . who could doubt it?] Thank you Anne for your honesty about this. It clearly resonated with many people.

Ian Robert Soule I couldn't read that entire article. He sounds like my [secular university] philosophy textbook. [I'll take that as a compliment. Thanks! But of course, no rational interaction is found here, either . . .]

Michael Medicine Crow Iott Hmmm. Well written. But again I must apply Occam's Razor. [Occam's Razor included biblical revelation as well, according to Occam himself. What he actually wrote was: “For nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident (literally, known through itself) or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture.” Right from the horse's mouth . . .] If one accepts the writer's assumptions about faith and spirituality his arguments make perfect sense. But do not accept his assumptions. So, it does not. [I was writing for those who are Christians, anyway, so this is irrelevant] And I am not inclined to debate it with him (having spent a lot of time and energy doing so in the past and now I'm content to let these guys live in their bubble). [he's not alone, obviously . . .]

Carrie Hyman I can't call an article that full of faulty logic well written. [no rational argument given as to why she thinks this, of course]

Micah J Brubaker To be honest I think that whole bit on having to "defend your faith" is complete BS. Especially if the religion is Christianity. I was raised in a Christian family, and even though I do not consider myself one, I am pretty sure I have plenty of knowledge of it. [he's off to a bad start proving that to us, since the Bible has quite a bit about the duty of proclaiming and defending the faith] In regards to being a christian, the religion centers its self on faith in God, the belief that jesus is his only begotten son and died on the cross for us, having a "personal relationship" with Jesus.(In some cases being God,) and Abstinence. No were in the Bible have I ever read that you need to defend your faith. All you need to do is believe that Jesus is your savior and your set... but thats a broad statement... [it's good to admit one's ignorance. I would direct anyone who feels this way to my paper, Biblical Evidence For Vigorously, Passionately Arguing in Favor of One's Religious Truth Claims]

Gene Rhim What I noticed about the writer is his definition of Christianity is limited to the known apologetic logic which requires a unilaterally reasoned argument based on theological groups. [really? I must have missed my own alleged definition] The problems with this sort of theology (IMHO) are:
1.) the exclusion of other possible definitions of Christianity which may still be far more encompassing (and less judgmental) of others. [Catholicism has a long accepted definition and nature. Mrs. Rice claims to have adopted the Catholic faith]
2.) It also (seems to me) to be an arrogant stance because the logic assumes that it knows the Will of God by His Word. Who can by socratic argument know the Infinite will of God? Or for that matter can anyone of us know anything truly about another person's will by what is written? If you read a book by Anne Rice do you know Anne Rice? Or what she has planned for her next book? I think not. [melodramatic, irrelevant silliness; extreme caricature of an opposing position] . . .
4.) If arguments are the basis of faith then what about the presence of the Holy Spirit? Are we to forsake that? [the usual irrational pitting of faith against reason, as if they are antithetical] If we feel moved to pick up our things, go somewhere because the Holy Spirit moves us and speak what we are meant to speak, to give witness to God's love, and it is not in line with what is considered apologetically sound then are we to refrain? Isn't this a repeat of the same issues that Christ faced when he was criticized by the community for healing on a Sabbath? [to argue that the Bible speaks nowhere of a Church and of obedience to some ecclesiastical authority, is an extreme position of cluelessness as to what the Bible teaches. Christians disagree on the nature of the Church (ecclesiology) but they rarely express an opinion that there is no church at all, as if we are all lone rangers under God] So I bristle whenever someone gives a "good" argument based on "sound" apologetic discourse. It strikes me as too similar to the same issues faced by Christ and the pharisees: white washed coffins who have all the answers but not the spirit which is the living truth. [pseudo-pietistic nonsense . . . ] . . . Apologetics dwells on words written in the past. [okay, let's toss the Bible, too, then] Unfortunately, that leads one to become enslaved by reasoned arguments based on interpretations of the living truth. [more false dichotomies] . . . Sorry for the babbling.
[admitting a fault is the first step to recovery . . .]

Linda Jones His arguments were well-reasoned, but they made me squirm. He doesn't account for the human heart, the wanting to belong or the spiritual journey. [this makes the false assumption that because something wasn't mentioned in one context, it is therefore disbelieved in all] I understand why you came back to Catholicism and why you left. [perhaps she can explain this to all of us then] . . . I think this author cannot fathom that many of us reject the institutions of Christianity because they are bastardizations of Christ's teachings. [in other words, God is too weak to sustain and establish even one Church (or even a creed or confession) that can truly preserve His teachings] His use of apologetics strains credulity.

Mylene Masangkay I guess you were being polite when you said that this article is well written. It's just a pointless, narrow-minded excuse for an analysis. But that's Catholicism for you, expecting you to never contest anything said by the Powers That Be.

Emily Savidge I couldn't even finish reading it. He was so smug; the page just oozed the stuff. Ugh. After reading through too many personal digs, I just stopped reading. He is clearly afraid of something because it sounds like a thinly-veiled personal attack And cowards attack when they can't get you to think their way. Who cares what he thinks? [who cares about making rational counter-replies anymore? Let's just do the personal attack thing and preach to the choir . . . that's how "discussion" proceeds nowadays in most Internet venues. True dialogue is as dead as a doornail and as understood as Sanskrit] I hope Anne doesn't.

Jen Redman Have to say I missed the discussion portion of the article. All I saw was him taking your quotes and contemptiously using air quotes, rolling eyes and sarcastic hmmmms. He didn't issue a valid argument as to why he thinks your decision to leave Christiany is wrong. He never addressed abortion, gay marriage, mysogyny, or any of your problems with Christianity.

Melissa Lucey Teel I think one of those people who is uncomfortable with uncertainty and needs everything in its proper place and structure



Ben Anderson said...

very well said, Dave.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Hi Dave,

A good follow-up article to the previous one. I agree with the comments you made in response to the Facebook posts. I have a few comments of my own to add:

No were [sic] in the Bible have I ever read that you need to defend your faith.

Really? Have you ever actually read the Bible?

1 Peter 3:13-17
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.


2.) It also (seems to me) to be an arrogant stance because the logic assumes that it knows the Will of God by His Word. Who can by socratic argument know the Infinite will of God? Or for that matter can anyone of us know anything truly about another person's will by what is written?

Ah, the writer has hit upon the need for special revelation in addition to general revelation. General revelation, that is, what God has revealed about Himself through creation, only conveys some general principles about Him and is not salvific by itself alone. But the nature of the Scriptures (special revelation) is that they are the revelation of God, that is, God's unveiling of Himself to humanity. That is how and why we can know what God's will is. So yes, God's character, nature, attributes and requirements of us are all over the pages of His book. It's not a blind faith to the true believer but an expression of the reasonable, rational, coherent and mysterious love of God for undeserving sinners. Why believing what God has revealed about Himself is to be considered "arrogant" I'll never understand.

Blessings in Christ,


Dave Armstrong said...

There has to be some way to fight against revelation and saving faith, so personal attacks and character judgments are enlisted. There are time-honored stereotypes of Christian believers. Sadly, true examples can be found, but extrapolating to the entire mass of Christians and making some pseudo-principle out of it is ludicrous.

Christopher said...

Interesting how a lot of the comments seem to criticize you for "judging". Perhaps they might be interested in this video which was just recently posted on Patrick Madrid's blog on what the Lord actually meant when He said: "Do not judge, lest ye be judged?"

It tends to be the banner statement of non-Christians now a days.

Dave keep up the good work. People's brains need to be challenged even if they don't agree with you. I would encourage them to spend some time on this website as they might actually understand Catholicism (even if they don't believe in it) more so than what the secular media has portrayed to them already. Most Americans watch so much tv they forgot what it's like to be a critical thinker (a skill once developed in colleges in ages past). Perhaps this will draw some traffic to your site which has a lot of good information for people seeking more intelligent answers than the ones they find on the history channel, MTV, etc.

I would encourage them to engage in mature educated dialog here and understand that you are not out to offend anyone and would expect the same respect in return.

Christopher said...

...(forgot to email subscribe to this thread)...

Pilgrimsarbour said...

1 "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:1-5)

First, although Jesus says "Judge not," there are actually a lot more words of His that follow. If all He had said were those two words, then we wouldn't have any problems. But He is not telling us to never make judgements of people. He is warning us against judging in a hypocritical manner. If He were telling us to never make any judgements at all about persons, then He would not have told us to "first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." With this statement He is commanding us and endorsing exercising discernment regarding another's sins, provided you attend to your own similar propensities first.

And here, within the same passage:

15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20)

This is a command to be on the lookout for false believers. How are we to know they are false believers if we are not permitted to make discerning judgements about them? The answer is clear. We will know them by the behaviours they exhibit which are to be measured objectively against the Word of God. Make judgements, but do it righteously, and not in a hypocritical way.

So the oft-misquoted "Judge not" passage is not understood properly by the many who use it to justify all manner of wicked behaviour.

Dave Armstrong said...

Bravo! You did a masterful job dismantling one of the classics of know-nothing biblical exegesis . . .

Dave Armstrong said...

My friend Stan Williams has written a great post about this whole Anne Rice controversy and my involvement in it:

Anne Rice, Catholicism, and Dave Armstrong's Defense

Christopher said...

Fr. Barron weighs in: