Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Hey, wait a minute

At Hugo Schwyzer's blog, I posted a comment about exciting things like sex and fantasy and libido and masturbation, but I later was thinking about what I'd said, and I think I fell for some problematic terminology in my comment. I'm not sure what it says about me that I came away from this subject thinking about semantics, but I'll not dwell on that. Here are the relevant passages from his post and my reply - see if you can spot the problem.

I'm not denying that sexual fantasy is a powerful part of most of our lives, and a part of our lives that most secular voices insist we ought not even try and control. In the secular world, ethics is about our actions, not the substance of our thoughts. Fantasy, therefore, is nearly universally regarded as harmless; as long as we don't act on all of our fantasies (particularly when they involve boundary violations of one sort or another), we're told to enjoy our private reveries (with or without masturbation.)

Hugo, when you say that secularists (of which I am one, to the core) don't believe in bad thoughts, I think that's a misperception. If I find my mind wandering to some unkind or violent or otherwise objectionable thoughts, I do try and stop them. It's the conviction behind the thoughts that make them objectionable, and if I'm feeling something I know is hurtful or wrong, I'll do my best to stop feeling it.
I'm not sure how I let it slip so completely under my radar, but shouldn't we all in this country be secularists? Don't we have a secular government and believe it can rightully exist in a separate sphere - a secular sphere - from our religious beliefs? A secularist is not the opposite of a Christian or a Muslim. A secularist is the opposite of a theocrat, and I don't think that Hugo is advocating for theocracy here. I can understand wanting to simplify your writing and using the term as a catch-all for atheists and agnostics, but with the way the term "secularist" is used as a dirty word by a lot of would-be theocrats, and the general antipathy in this country toward atheists, I think it's a good idea to speak about these things correctly and avoid any more false dichotomizing.
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