Friday, February 12, 2016

But If You Have an Enemy, Prove That He Did You Some Good

Well, there's a name I hadn't heard or thought about in a good while — it seems Peezus Myers recently got caught piling one lie upon another before responding with his usual bluster to being called on it. How do I feel about this? Grateful, I have to say.

No, I'm not being facetious. In truth, I stopped reading the godless blogosphere a year ago, and during my hiatus, when I was only online for brief periods, I never saw any mention of him or his clownish comrades to keep my scorn levels elevated. Now, with the perspective gained through the passing of time, I realize that I owe the man some genuine gratitude. I can't deny that because of him, in a very direct way, my life has changed for the better.

Peezus was the inspiration for my own Cartesian reckoning, as I like to call it. I don't mean that I sat down like Descartes and doubted my own existence and sanity — I just mean that, thanks to his example, I was forced into doing some serious conceptual renovating from the ground up. I used to read Pharyngula every day, so from the start, I watched him develop his futile project to fuse New Atheism with New Left identity politics and pseudo-radicalism. As he began to increasingly venture outside of his comfort zone of biology or atheist pedantry, I would start to notice how shallow and uninformed his "arguments" were. What he lacked in knowledge or curiosity, he made up for with bombast and sneering contempt. He was bolstered in this by the symbiotic relationship he developed with his commentariat, both sides becoming worse than they could have ever managed on their own. It was like being given a free online course to study cognitive biases, virtue signaling, in-group vs. out-group dynamics, the attraction and perils of groupthink, and the ultra-conformist tendencies built into the structure of social media. I gazed into the Nietzschean abyss, but thankfully, the abyss was too dysfunctional and narcissistic to gaze back into me.

Faced with what seemed to be a bewildering transformation among people I thought I understood, I threw myself into learning as much as I could to place it all in context. That meant having the humility to declare a near-complete agnosticism about sociopolitical issues while I took the time to ask questions I should have asked long before. Slowly, over the next few years, I began to rebuild the foundations of a coherent perspective, one piece of insight at a time, jettisoning all the broken pieces that no longer fit. It seemed daunting at first, but it has become increasingly joyful. So much wisdom to be found in places I was scared to look before!

It's true that the more you learn, the more you become aware of how little you actually know. But I've come far enough to be able to look back in appreciation at the irony of how this pathetic, rage-filled man who wanted to help lead an atheist revolution to change the world, through his ignominious failure, unwittingly became the Archimedean lever that moved my worldview.