On FB, my friend and polar opposite Annia Marcella, Heathen and Anglo-Saxon Deity worshipper, commented on an atheist’s FB post about his girlfriend’s little ordeal of explaining her atheism to a meeting of Christians. But the ‘discussion’ degenerated into a squabble over language. Annia’s detractors were zealous and egotistical and relentless, on a couple of points. (1) Annia, a pagan, refuses to abide by the label ‘pagan’, claming ‘heathen’ as the proper label for a practicer of the neo-Germanic religio she embraces. The original poster, Thomas, pointed out – correctly but a bit belligerently – that pagan and heathen are synonyms. Annia grew irate, insisting that her group owned the label ‘heathen’. Later, (2) another atheist zealot kept attacking her for the fact that she even entertained the notion of deity, saying that anyone who even allows the possibility is deluding him or her self and is an idiot. At some point she alienated a woman who was initially welcoming such that (3) the woman began calling Annia a bigot!
Re (1), both belligerents should have acknowledged that they were speaking at cross-purposes – Thomas was right on grounds of English etymology and general usage of the word ‘heathen’; but Annia’s claim was correct in the context of her group, that for her & her friends Heathen was an identity marker. All this could so easily have been cleared up by acknowledging that ‘heathen’ was the general noun (equal to ‘pagan’) but that ‘Heathen’ (initial cap’d) was a proper noun, proper to Annia and her co-relgionists. But no one looked for any resolution other than simply being Right and Numero Uno.
Re (2), the arrogance of the “rationalist” attacker was his weak point, yet I don’t believe she ever attacked it: both of them were so intent each on his or her own absolute and exclusive claim on the truth, that they could not even discuss questions of knowledge – it was that same old “right or wrong”, no room for discussion, “I win!” mentality.
Re (3), I’m not sure where that went wrong, but after civil overtures from the other woman, they ended up on the far side of the thread denouncing each other over who and what language they should use to post in, Annia making jingo-istic demands that the woman (of Latin language heritage) needed to learn English and being denounced in turn as a bigot.
At each turn of discourse, Annia & her detractors never missed a chance to stoke the fires of ignorance; these people went on and on; in the end, there were in excess of 400 comments on that thread! Instead of trying to understand what was going on in the mechanics of their foolish argument, each sought to win by sheer insistence. It’s amazing – the hunger people have for strife and domination, their inflexible faith in their own infallibility, and their over-copious contempt for everyone else. It’s amazing – but it seems to be very, very much the norm.