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Bad Mood

August 2, 2009

Do you ever just get in a bad mood? I’m in the worst friggin’ mood ever. I feel like hating everyone and everything right now. I want to write up a big blog post about how stupid everyone is.

I’ll try to keep my hatred to a minimum.

So, here’s a list of the type of people who make me the angriest.

First, it is the ignorant people with know-it-all attitudes. You know who I’m talking about. I once wrote a scholarly book on a topic, so I sort of consider myself an expert on that topic, even though I recognize that there are respectable alternative positions to my own. But it’s not surprising to run into people whoever never read a single book or academic article on the topic, yet who have no difficulty dictating to me the facts of the matter as if they were experts. One of my undergraduate professors told me that he researched a passage in a Pauline letter for two or three years while he was working on his dissertation. Apparently he need not have bothered, since one night he went to dinner with a minister who proceeded to explain to him what it meant in 3 minutes.

Then there are the people who have high burdens of proof for everyone else but low burdens of proof for themselves. Almost anything will justify their own views for themselves—they’ll probably be incapable of seeing any weaknesses in their own position—and the burden of proof on all other positions will be insurmountable. These people tend to throw around double standards everywhere, almost as if they had a mental block. Along these lines, I saw a documentary a few years ago in which John Dominic Crossan notes that there were lots of stories in the ancient world about people with virgin births. He points out that we could be suspicious of all of them, or we could do what most people do: assume all of them are wrong except our own story. Of course, excepting one’s own view from criticism while turning a critical eye to everyone else seems reasonable as long as your group is the dominant group.

Next on the list are the people who don’t understand that an authority cannot authorize itself. For instance, there are some Christians who “get it” that it’s not sensible to cite the Bible in defense of the Bible’s authority. Then there are the ones who quote some passage in Timothy to me about how the scriptures are inspired, as if that would be persuasive to someone who didn’t already accept the Bible as authoritative.

Tonight, I hate you all.

Tomorrow I’ll be warm and fuzzy again.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim permalink
    August 2, 2009 10:05 pm

    i thought i felt a rip in the force…

  2. Vidya permalink
    August 2, 2009 10:59 pm

    I recall once reading an article where a religion professor pointed out that, when meeting new people, if he was to identify himself as a neurosurgeon, no one would offer his/her views on the subject. As a professor of religion, however…

    As for myself, when I was a grad student in the area, I ran into an old friend who asked what I was studying, and who then replied, “Oh, I don’t believe in any of that.” I think she was a bit surprised when I told her that at least half of our Religion department didn’t either.

  3. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    August 3, 2009 8:47 am

    Vidya, yes! Apparently, everything about religion is subjective so every subjective view is equally correct.

    It’s so strange how many people think “I study religion” means “I’m really religious.” I want to tell people that I study religion like feminists study patriarchy …

  4. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    August 3, 2009 8:53 pm

    Holy hell. I’ll leave it at that.

    Pretty soon I’m going to be one of those old guys who goes around complaining about how things were better “back in my day ….”

    Sorry your comment was slow to appear; the spam filter flags pretty much anything with a link these days, and I had to tell it that you weren’t a spammer.

  5. August 3, 2009 9:28 pm

    On the topic of people with “know-it-all attitudes”: While this can be frustrating, I’d like to think that it also can create an opportunity. What I mean by this is that people who feel they “know it all” about a topic are usually interested in that topic. True, a neurosurgeon would rarely have to hear views about neurosurgery from non-neurosurgeons. While this is due to people’s general lack of knowledge about neurosurgery, it is also due to people’s general lack of interest in neurosurgery. In other words, a neurosurgeon would rarely get into a conversation about neurosurgery with someone at a social gathering because of the “average person’s” lack of knowledge and lack of interest in neurosurgery.

    With religion, on the other hand, although it can be frustrating to hear a “non-expert’s” (dogmatic) thoughts on the subject, it also presents the opportunity to engage someone in a discussion about a topic in which they are interested and you are knowledgeable. A neurosurgeon would not generally have this same opportunity (not because of his/her lack of knowledge, but because of the other person’s lack of interest).

    As a sociologist, I often face a similar situation as would, I imagine, a religious studies scholar. I have spent years studying socialization and youth sport. Many people who have never read a piece of research about youth sport feel they are “experts” about the topic and have many suggestions about how to improve/change youth sports. In discussions with such individuals, I have sometimes been able to share knowledge that makes them reconsider their ideas about youth sports. I don’t know, maybe I’m just in an optimistic mood tonight, but I try to look at this situation as an opportunity (although I don’t deny that hearing the thoughts of such “know it alls” can be frustrating as well).

  6. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    August 4, 2009 11:53 am

    I hear ya, AL. On my better days, I know that’s the best approach, and sometimes I do utilize it. Thanks for your comment!

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