Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Transgenderism: From Demons to Delusions

 "The major problems in the world," said the ecologist Gregory Batson, "are the result of the difference between how nature works and how people think." And today, this difference is most clearly illustrated in our competing ideas about gender in general, and transgenderism more specifically.  So what is transgenderism?

In simplest terms, transgenderism is when someone identifies with a gender that does not seem to conform to what appears to the naked eye to be their sexual assignment. But as we shall see, we can’t always judge a book by its cover, and what we may look like on the outside may be the very opposite of what we look like on the inside, especially on a genetic or chromosomal level. 

For this reason, transgenderism serves as perhaps the perfect example of the difference between Science and Religion, between conclusions reached by facts versus perspectives held in faith, and between what is ultimately “true”- independent of what anyone thinks - and what we simply choose to “believe.” In fact, it is precisely this glaring difference between "truth" and a "belief" that has contributed to much of the animosity between science and religion, for one is independent of anyone's recognition of it while the other is wholly dependent upon, and wholly contained within, the mind of the "believer." 

If the Bible said the First Commandment was that everyone must “believe” that 2+2=5, for example, that doesn’t mean we will all go to hell if we don’t accept such claims to be mathematically “true,” regardless of what mathematicians around the world may have to say about it. But we live in a bi-polar world, where our craving for the security of ever simpler answers grows in tandem with a reality that is evermore complex and uncertain. And the more we see the latter, the more people seek to retreat into the comfort and nostalgia of the former. Yet even this craving for simplicity, like the butterfly effect, can still produce virtually infinite complexity, as the itch of our curiosity leads scholars to scratch out untold numbers of tomes about every idea under the sun, no matter how simple that idea may have been to begin with.

Compare the difference between The Theory of Evolution and the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  While Darwin's theory of evolution is a complex idea that is supported by an ample of amount of physical evidence from "many different disciplines such as paleontology, comparative anatomy, bio-geography, and perhaps most significantly, genetics," the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a pretty simple straight forward idea about forgiveness and salvation that is supported entirely by the writings of people who often lived long after the event.  Yet regardless of how simple the idea of the Crucifixion may be, the efforts and intellectual energies of untold numbers of people have created a complexity of understanding about that event that may surpass almost anything in science.

The compounding effects of our own curiosity has therefore produced the cognitive dissonance that now plagues humanity as a whole, as the rivalry between our attempts to understand the world war endlessly with our beliefs about how we think the world should actually be. Like Cain and Able, or Scylla and Charibdes, these perspective battle for supremacy of the human mind, while the world and everything in it hangs in the balance.  

Like "The School of Athens," that famous painting by Raphael that depicts Plato and Aristotle arguing over the difference between idealized "forms" and earthly realities, so our conceptions of human perfection are always just projections of ourselves, multiplied by infinity. That's why half of humanity thinks "freedom" means we should aspire to be like the gods of Greece and Rome, who were free to be whoever they wanted while indulging in delights with a modicum of moderation, while the other half thinks we must be like the gods of Christianity and Islam, leaving us only "free" to submit to an idealized abstraction of human "perfection" on an infinite scale, who demand an austerity of appetites, who is defined by those who claim to "know" what the real "will" of God just happens to be.

 In truth, however, we are most like Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers who fought each other to the death over which hill top they should build Rome, Palatine or Aventine. And today, humanity is similarly wrestling with which mountain of thought has a clearer view of who we really are and why we are here, science or religion. Indeed, should we see ourselves as unique in our human diversity, capable of being whoever we wish to be, or are we mere robotic knock offs of a divine archetype that we must all try to conform to, even though no one agrees about what moral metrics we should use?  And like Ahab caught in the ropes of the harpoon he plunges into Moby Dick, again and again, these two sides of human thought scream at each other...  

"...To the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool!"

 This "all or nothing" devotion to our "beliefs," which makes death seem all the more seductive by recasting it as a martyrs ticket to paradise, along with the threat of the eternal hell that awaits us if we fail to defend those "beliefs" to our last breath if need be, is a major part of why so many people seem so resistant to changing their minds about ideas of sexuality and gender, among so many other things. As science advances our knowledge and understanding of our complexity, fears founded on ancient texts, superstitions, and ever changing subjective appetites and "beliefs" - even though most "believers" seem to think they have a near infallible understanding of objective "truth" which has been communicated unambiguously to us all from God (that no one can agree one, of course) - become anathema to both peace and human progress overall. 

The certainties upon which we depend for our identity and emotional stability ebb from us as the complexity of reality is slowly unveiled, and the line between human understanding and a divine demarcation of "right and wrong" seems only to recede from our understanding the more we try to understand ourselves. And this evolution of thought scares the hell out of a lot of people, both atheists and believers alike, and for good reason. What are we to make of a world where all our moral certainties are crumbling, and must therefore be redesigned? What should sheep do when they discover their Shepard understands less about the world than they do? "For what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?," as Fr. Mapple put it.

Where once religion proclaimed with certainty that the mentally handicap were either in league with the devil or possessed by him, scientific investigation discovered it was almost always the result of natural abnormalities of the brain instead. Where the Church once declared suicide to be a sin, it now understands that our mind is only as human as we are. From slavery to solar systems, the Church militant have had to watch as its “beliefs” have been continually forced to submit to the tyranny of truth, and as we have learned from experience, religion has had to witness “Herbert Spencer's tragedy of the murder of a Beautiful Theory by a Gang of Brutal Facts.” 

And so, in an attempt to hold tight to the security blanket of their moral ideas, Christians shamelessly devote themselves to the worship of their own confirmation bias about gender and sexuality, by using their “beliefs” as always the first and preferred means of trying to explain and understand everything there is to understand.  Perhaps this is why so many Christians have adamantly refused to consider they could ever be wrong in their conclusions about sexuality or gender. But their refusal to accept that any evidence could ever change their mind – almost as if they were convinced they were as omniscient as God Himself in their understanding of things they have gleamed most if not all of their understanding about from their Church or their Bible - only proves that such “believers” are just as human as the rest of us.  

When most people focused most of their time and energy on trying to save their souls from eternal hell fire by understanding God and the bible, for example, we did not know enough about the nature of the human mind to realize that those we burned as witches were actually suffering from real mental problems. And now that we focus such a great deal of our time and energy on understanding our own mental problems, our similar dearth of knowledge about gender has led many of us to fail to realize that those we so readily proclaim to be “delusional” about their gender, as people like Fr. Mike Schmitz and conservative antagonist Ben Shapiro proudly declare with all the infallibility of the Pope, are often just people who are different both genetically and neurologically.   

Put another way, in the past, since the only tool we had was the hammer of religion, everything appeared to us to be a spiritual nail. Today, however, since the only tool most people are familiar with in diagnosing human differences comes from the pseudo psychology we learn from movies, TV shows and pharmaceutical companies selling us cures for every “mental problem” their marketing departments can dream up, we instinctively jump to the conclusion that everything must be a delusion or a mental disease; and all of which must be hammered out with a cocktail of medications and therapy.

Indeed, it has become as fashionable to accuse people we disagree with of suffering from mental disorders as it is to diagnose every addiction a person can have as being a “disease.”  Alcoholism and America’s illegal drug and opiod addiction, for example, are never seen as proof that we are living in a profoundly sick society, one that we are taught to champion for its blessings and virtues as much as condemn for how it is designed to create an ever growing addiction to debt driven consumption and vice, but of proof that our mind is as susceptible to the perils of consumerism as we are to the common cold.  

Indeed, we see this tendency to characterize everything as a “mental problem” when a person commits suicide, and rather than consider the effects that stress can have on us emotionally and psychologically, we deduce the person must have been suffering from a chemical imbalance instead.  Even in politics, we see how arch-Conservatives claim “Liberalism is a mental disorder” perhaps as often as Liberals accuse Conservatives of suffering from some form of “brain damage,” and the atheist is accused of being as delusional about his science almost as often as the Christian is convinced of their infallible understanding of the divine – especially when it comes to things like gender and genetics, even though their bible has hardly a word to say about either one. 

The real irony to all of this, however, is that today the same religion that once suffered from the delusion that people who failed to conform to its “beliefs” about God because of their mental problem were witches, now believes that those who fail to conform to its antiquated beliefs about gender because of their genetics must be suffering from mental problems.    

From beliefs about witches and an earth centered universe, to understanding the “truths” of the human mind and the operations of a heliocentric solar system, humanity has always struggled with the difference between how nature works and how people think, between different"truths" and our deluded "beliefs," between accepting that we are only human, and as diverse and varied as the cells of the human body, and believing we are as infallible and omniscient as the mind of God. 

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