Those small towns in conservative areas

Sastra said several interesting things in a comment on Leaving Amherst.

I seldom comment, but read Butterflies & Wheels regularly, and I’m terribly grateful that Ophelia is not only as interesting and provocative as she is, but is a ‘she’ as well. I’ve noticed a distinct “gentleman’s agreement” among the women I know that we really should not disagree. What I call “Thanksgiving Table Diplomacy” promoted around the calendar – avoid controversy and pass the potatoes, bringing up all the lovely things we have in common. “It’s more important to be nice than ‘right.'” Women are supposed to be supportive and reassuring. No debate; no disagreement; no honest discussion of contrary views, unless it is to “celebrate our diversity.” That’s a sign of spiritual maturity, evidently. Even in a discussion group.

Yeah – I know the kind of thing. I blame the ‘Women’s Ways of Knowing’ crowd (as well as anyone else I feel like blaming). This is one reason I am so stroppy (or so interesting and provocative as Sastra put it). I have to be stroppy, I have to compensate for all those women who make themselves into marshmallows!

As the only secular humanist among neo-pagans, New Agers, and Spiritual Seekers, it’s hard. They love to jabber about their beliefs, and back them up with heavy combinations of pseudoscience and postmodernist “all paths to truth are valid” — all paths, except, evidently, rational skepticism, which is apparently the egotistical, narrow, mean one.

I know – being the only fan of reason among woolly thinkers is hard. We learned quite a lot about that from the students at the seminar.

I am a bit of a convention junkie, and have gone to a fair amount of Council for Secular Humanism events. I have yet to do one of the CFI summer sessions, though, and when I found out OB and JS were on the program I was ready to bite myself in frustration. I can’t afford it yet! So you have to do it again!!! I have all your books!!!! Please — even if it’s a Boy’s Club (I was there for the grand opening of the new building, impressive as all get out).

A Boys’ Club is certainly not all it is – and it clearly is a lifeline and a source of hope for a lot of people in small conservative towns in the Bible Belt. Maybe we will do it again – if we’re asked.

I don’t work in an occult bookstore. But it seems as if all the liberal adult women in my area who read, think, and enjoy interesting discussions on topics other than their kids and their busy schedules are “spiritual but not religious” — and this is the catalyst for most of the “deeper” discussions…I live in a small town in a conservative area of the Midwest. I take what I can get.

Many of the students were in exactly that situation, if you swap ‘the South’ or ‘Texas’ for ‘the Midwest,’ and that fact produced a shift in Jeremy’s thinking. We have a running disagreement over the whole subject of what he calls ‘religion-bashing’; it always ends up in the same place: he tells me he just can’t empathize because it’s not like that in the UK; he can intellectually grasp why religion seems threatening in the US but he can’t feel it. I tend to find this slightly exasperating, because I don’t quite see why grasping it intellectually isn’t enough; but anyway he is now able to empathize somewhat more because of his experience over the two and a half weeks at CfI. He got friendly with several people from small towns in conservative areas, and he got a much better sense of how terrible it can be. And at the welcoming dinner that opened the second module – the one at which he was supposed to give opening remarks, the one we were so late for because of lingering too long in Seneca Falls – all the participants were asked to stand up and say a little about themselves; there were several new people who gave rather impassioned accounts of conservative small town life. When it was time for JS to say his few words he said he was feeling rather sheepish – about his long-standing inability to empathize. He meant it, too – he found the whole thing quite moving. So did I, so did Julian; I think so did everyone.

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