« Skeptics' Circle #55 • The Rants • Of Mollusks And Men... »
Just Not Getting Your Intended Clientele
2007.03.02 (Fri) 22:38
We were looking at our Google Ads, when we saw this advertisement:
So we clicked on it. No, we weren't trying to find a date for the weekend — we were just intrigued when we saw an ad for any product or service at all that was actually targeted specifically at atheists and agnostics. That's something we just don't see. Ever. So...neat. We were impressed.
Of course, when we got to the site, we were quite de-impressed almost immediately when we saw this:
Welcome to the Free Thinker's Match Maker. Do any of the following describe you...
...as well as single and looking?
If so, then this site is for you. Browse 1000s of profiles and photos placed by like minded singles.
Okay, sing along with us (or with Cookie):
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
Did you guess which thing on the list of "Free Thinkers" was not like the others, boys and girls? Yes, we realize that including deists on this list may be a little bit of a stretch for some, but in practice, most deists we've met tend to be pretty much agnostic anyway, so we can live with that one.
But...pagans? Pagans?! Fuck, we can hardly think of a less suitable group to include on this list! Self-identified "pagans" are among the loopiest true believers on the market today. They are about as far from being freethinkers as it's possible to get. Although they tend to see themselves as all unique and special, they are really just revisiting various types of tried and untrue woo, mushing them all together, and adding scented candles and an unconventional fashion sense. Most pagans that we've met are the most banal lemmings that can be found, the exact opposite of freethinkers (a completely sincere statement from one pagan we know, verbatim: "Oh, yes, I was totally skeptical about John Edward at first, but now I totally believe him" — like, totally). We don't know very many critical thinkers who would willingly choose to associate with them, let alone date them. Of course, if the coven (or whatever they want to call themselves) is into ritualistic orgies, that's a different discussion, but our point about a lack of critical thinking, to say nothing of independent individual thought, remains firm.
Why not just toss Scientologists into the mix as well? Hey, they're not a mainstream religion, either — so they must be freethinkers, right? For fuck's sake.
What the fuck is wrong with these people? Do they really think that pagans have anything in common with the rest of these groups? Do they really not understand that adding pagans into this particular mix renders their entire idea useless to those it is intended to serve?
Listen, we know some folks who call themselves pagans — quite well, in fact (some are blood relations). We persist in referring to them as "folks who call themselves pagans," as opposed to simply "pagans," because of the sheer silly audacity that leads so many people to commandeer a very old label to refer to their new take on any tired concept — apparently, from what we've seen, this is some effort to "connect" their boring retread crapola to some larger historical, cultural, or spiritual framework. You can see the same idea at work in those who think that electrical current introduced to the body through thin needles should be called "acupuncture" — despite the fact that acupuncture, as established thousands of years ago (and translated into English a bit more recently), never included any access to a source of electricity.
As another example, take a look at the modern crew who latched onto the word "witch" (many of them use the "pagan" label, too) and redefined it to mean what they want it to mean — utterly disregarding the history of the word (though even some dictionaries are now fooled into thinking that "Wicca" is a pre-Christian religion), and the popular understanding of its meaning. Unlike science and reality, which — as we keep having to remind the woos and other true believers — are not democracies, language is a democracy, perhaps the oldest form of human democracy still in existence. The meanings of words, their proper and casual usage, the idioms derived from them...plenty of books are written on these "rules," but look around, and listen — the books don't decide what the rules are, despite many pedantic claims, but rather report what rules the actual speakers and writers of the language have established simply by using said language on a daily basis, over the course of generations. Yes, all linguists and keen observers of the phenomenon understand that language evolves and changes memetically in a remarkable imitation of actual biological evolution, but the reason for this is popularization: it is a democratic "natural selection" process that weeds out archaic, undesirable, or peripheral words and usage from those that are accepted by the majority of speakers. It's how languages form, how they branch off from one another; it's how we go from a pidgin, to a creole, to a fully-fledged language. Everybody gets to participate in this selection process, and even has a chance to introduce substantial changes to their language, simply by virtue of engaging in conversations with others or expressing their thoughts in writing. How much more democratic can you get?
But because modern "pagans" and "witches" want to establish themselves as freethinkers, and are clearly incapable of doing so through their actual ideas and practices — which are the same old, same old when it comes to woo and religion — they "rebel" in the only way they seem able: by stealing real words and making up their own meanings (or making up new ones and pretending they're ancient). This, presumably, demonstrates just how "unique" and "special" they are, because their usage of words is so different from everybody else's. "See?" they cry. "You mainstream sheep think words mean that, but we use them to mean this." This leads to their triumphant battle cry: "We're special!"
They've tried tattoos, they've tried extensive body-piercing, they've tried outrageous modes of dress and hairstyles and makeup...but all of these practices quickly become absorbed into the mainstream (as they should be), or into various other subcultures that don't use them "correctly" — because they're not pagans — and therefore distort their special significance. They've tried rituals and prayers, which is incredibly funny, since there's absolutely nothing "new" or "special" about praying or conducting rituals. They've tried such crazy, wild stuff as incense — shine on, you crazy pagans! — which, of course, they stole from Asia and the Middle East (the cradle of the modern mainstream religions) by way of the hippie movement (so they didn't even get it second-hand).
Nothing they've tried to do is "unique" or "special," none of it is "new" or "innovative" — and to those who don't buy into the feel-good mumbo-jumbo that is meant to support their practices, it's all pretty darn silly. So they've, uh, "lashed out" by taking a bunch of words and redefining them. Oh, the horror — they've got us now! Yes, this is just as meaningful, effective and engaging as a child playing "Today is Opposite Day!" (No it is.) And the usual meaning of that...is that somebody needs some attention.
Preempting the inevitable and ill-conceived woo reaction: no, we are not claiming that we are "unique" or "special." We'd like to think we're good people, rather intelligent, pretty talented, even rather easy on the eyes...and others may even agree with us. But that's irrelevant, and wouldn't make us anything out of the ordinary anyway, in a world full of well-intentioned, smart, skilled, and good-looking people. We are skeptics, yes, but the whole point of our brand of skeptical outlook is that we don't want to be unique or special in that regard. We want everybody to think critically, and be skeptical of claims with no evidentiary basis. And judging by the excellent assortment of people in our Usual Suspects, that doesn't make us unique or special either. So this isn't some sort of "you aren't, but we are" challenge to the pagans/witches/woos of every stripe; it's just a wake-up call to address their silly sense of uniqueness, as they all follow along with the other lemmings in their coven-herds.
Now, yes, this kind of discussion applies equally well to all believers — particularly those zealous fanatics in the "mainstream" religions — but this Rant is intended to focus on the pagans (we don't spend enough time pointing and laughing at them, it seems). And a big problem with pagans and many other woos — as evidenced by the ad that started this Rant off — is that their lack of acceptance into the mainstream seems to be all they need to claim "specialhood," and identify as "freethinkers." You know, as opposed to actually doing or thinking something original, interesting, or useful.
Would we immediately and automatically blow off a date with a pagan? Well, no, because we'd give anybody a chance to be considered an acquaintance, friend, or even more. But just as horrendously bad body odor might turn us off — even if the person behind the stench is a genuine gem — someone identified as "pagan" would have a strike against them in our eyes, simply due to our past experience and observations...it's bias, but not prejudice. If "freethinkermatch.com" is trying to establish an environment where people who really don't follow the crowd — when it comes to holding silly beliefs — would feel totally comfortable looking for a date or a mate, they're going to have to re-think their guest list. For now, we'll recommend sticking with a real freethinkers' dating site.
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[ Filed under: % Bullshit % Computers & the Internet % Religion ]
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Bronze Dog, 2007.03.03 (Sat) 20:54 [Link] »
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Jason Spicer, 2007.03.07 (Wed) 23:36 [Link] »
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