Wednesday, December 05, 2012


You really, really can't predict what will set people off! Today's reading in "Theorizing Religion" was a chapter from Melissa Wilcox's Queer Women and Religious Individualism. I thought we'd discuss this (173):

A kind of "We're here, we're queer, get used to it!" addressed to God, I think it invites all sorts of reflection on queer faith, faith journeys, communities, and what Judith Halberstam calls "queer temporality." We got to it, eventually, but first we spent the better part of an hour trying to talk down one very vocal student who was indignant at this (169):
Why indignant? "She has no right to call herself an atheist!" So the class discussed if you could be an atheist and believe in something after death or that there's something "bigger than us" - most thought so, but not the accuser. I said that as a scholar I had to take seriously every self-described X in trying to understand X, and could not privilege her over Silva just because she was in the room. I trotted out Cornel West - "there are as many kinds of atheism as there are theisms being rejected" - and offered them a reason for not describing oneself as an atheist:

Presumably ... believers in fairies would call those who do not share their views ‘a-fairyists’, hence trying to keep the debate on fairy turf, as if it had some sensible content; as if there were something whose existence could be a subject of discussion worth the time. (A. C. Grayling, Against All Gods, 34)

While there are political and developmental reasons why people might need to define themselves through rejection of an error or prejudice (a common stage in coming out), shouldn't they eventually or also be able to define themselves in positive terms? The class came up with various possibilities (though not humanist, which I suggested) but not the fundamentalist, who stammered but gave no ground. Give her time...

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