From the Political Deconversions thread, this recently posted account from Mountain Feist is kind of amazing. It’s about a deconversion from a certain kind of cultural politics:
My parents had a self conscious, socially respectable sort of conservatism that they attempted to pass on to me. We were nominally Lutheran, and as a child it seemed less a real faith then just belonging to the right club (the respectable people). My dad was an American success story. He went from poor West Virginia logger to wealthy upper management. Our family paid the price with a near absent dad, a perpetually stressed mom, and no real relationship with extended family. I do not have a hometown to speak of– my family sacrificed that in pursuit of the American dream.
I rebelled against what I felt was the superficiality of the religion, against my mother’s perpetual anger, and against being uprooted so much as a young person. Much of that rebellion came from the worst parts of me, but it was inspired by a genuine rejection of the materialist values and lukewarm nominalism of my parents. I became as far left as I could be. I spent my twenties in increasingly confrontational left wing activism, much of which I am ashamed of today. I was also battling alcoholism and an extreme depression (largely existential) at the time. This didn’t exactly help my judgment.
I do know, from my time on the radical fringe, that the hatred of the left justifies itself completely. In my circles there were reasoned debates about the use of violence– from property destruction to personal violence. My mental condition worsened from the activism. You have to hold in a lot of anger and generate a lot of outrage to be in the streets. My feelings of hatred led me to consider a lot of alternative lifestyles that ultimately did more psychological damage then not. I met many psychologically damaged people too.
Things that deconverted me in short: getting sober, taking care of my depression, involvement in the queer community, and a religious conversion. When I got sober, I had to distance myself from the debauchery and drunkenness that is ever present in radical circles. That alone did wonders for my mental health. I began to see how unhealthy polyamory and the like were, and I got tired of paying lip service to my friends who believed it was a sign of an enlightened status. I also saw that by championing sexual freedom in this way, I was having to condone a whole lot of mental agony. It felt wrong to do that.
I had a good friend who transitioned from male to female. This person and I became extremely close. We lived together with their child from a failed marriage (as friends). I saw some insanity close up that I can’t forget. My friend was tortured. I knew many in the queer community and at one time identified so myself. Many of us struggled. However, seeing the way my trans friend struggled broke me of my gender delusions. They were a sexual abuse survivor with severe gender confusion as a result. Like many trans people, my friend had spent a few years homeless. We bonded over our shared experiences of mental pain, as we met in a support group for depression. I stayed up with them many nights when the flashbacks came. All of this mental torturedness made them wildly popular in the queer community, and a lot of cis-women wanted to date a transwoman, I suppose to get the cool cache of being queer without having to sleep with someone of the opposite sex. (My friend never had SRS) It was disgusting to witness how popular their trans status made them, and it made me see how much of the new gender activism was ignoring the person, and setting new social ideals. My friend ended up de-transitioning back to male eventually, along with another trans person in the community. I took a permanent break from the community after that, rethinking what I’d been trained in college and through the “radical scene” to think about gender and sex. I can not help but see a sickening dischord between the psychological suffering of many trans people and the valorization of trans and gender variant people, as if they were empancipatory heros. I knew many other people who identified gender queer etc. A tortured group. I stop believing it was all due to society. No sweeping social change will help if you vehemently hate your physical body. I feel great compassion fot those who suffer with dysmorphia of any kind, but no longer feel the answer is in transitioning.
With my worldview crumbling and the crutch of alcohol and drugs gone, I ran to the (cliche liberal) spiritual solution. I started meditating. I dove in. I took months off in spiritual retreat. I converted to Buddhism at one of them. I facilitated groups, went to conferences. It did me a lot of good: I pulled my life together with the stability I found. I started working in a job where I could give back to the society I’d spit on. I was agnostic during this time and met a Catholic man at a Buddhist retreat. He was going through a rough patch in his marriage and I think he was just looking for a place to be in silence. I know, I know. Readers of this blog will think it’s ridiculous and heretical that a Catholic Christian would be at a Buddhist retreat center, but I thank God that he was. His faith was inspiring to me. I picked up a book on Christian monasticism, intrigued. I began reading about ancient Christianity. My heart was opened.
I had planned a three month pilgrimage to Nepal, and went despite my waning Buddhist faith. Spending three months there changed my life. I saw a culture bound by tradition to the past and present, and troubled as things are in Nepal, I could not help but see they had something we do not. I saw something I had always longed for, I suppose– embeddedness. Connectedness. I felt funny as an American Buddhist, with liberal values, coming face to face with a traditional Hindu (and, in the mountains, Buddhist) culture. In the West, these traditions are adapted to suit secular values. They are psychologized and politicized. I guess, seeing it that way, I didn’t want the liberal religion. I was spending time in a monastery there and began to think that going to a church would be nice. So I came home and started seeking the church in earnest. I haven’t stopped.
So having had these experiences, I began to see the contradictions in my liberal worldview. I loved local food, but hated local custom. I nearly made an idol of community, but I embraced community destroying practices (look, polyamory just doesn’t work. It’s selfish and sows division). I believed everyone was interconnected, that that the weak and vulnerable should be protected– I was a strict vegetarian for a decade. Still, I was rabidly pro-choice.
Politically, I don’t know where I am. I am not a democrat nor do I identify as liberal. Dostoyevsky’s political thought is appealing to me. He’s not running anytime soon – or ever – so I stay out of politics. I am not entirely comfortable with the conservative label because of what it means in the popular imagination. I cheered Brexit. (I spent a good deal time protesting globalization on the other side, so..) I am much more socially conservative these days, but feel that is due to my religious beliefs. I fear that society is heading in the direction I once wanted and pushed for. This is something I feel I share responsibility for. If it’s true, we are all in for some dark times. Hence my enjoyment of this blog. The alarmism can feel a bit much at times, but then I remember my not-so-distant past…
That was something. Thank you, Mountainfeist. I’ve had several stories readers have sent me this week to post, and you’ve given me a reason to gather them all in one place.
Governments have long used two arguments to criminalize consensual incest — risk of inbreeding and damage to the family — but societal changes may be chipping away at both of these stances. While couples who are close relatives do have a higher chance of having children with severe birth defects, today there are many effective ways to avoid pregnancies, or to get pregnant using a third person’s genetic material. The need to protect the traditional family structure may also become less relevant as society changes. When one case of consensual incest between a stepfather and stepdaughter was brought to the Supreme Court in 2007, the judges ruled it should remain illegal because it harmed the family. But J. Dean Carro, the lawyer who defended the incestuous couple says, “We were ahead of our time, but legalization will happen because such cases will become more common.”
More in this pullquote:
“We need to start asking if it’s OK to limit someone’s freedom just because we have a ‘yuck’ response to it.”
— Debra Lieberman, assistant professor, University of California, Santa Barbara
That’s exactly right. If consent/harm is the only standard, and there is no chance of conceiving a child from an incestuous union, why should the law bind the freedom of others? Don’t misread me: I absolutely believe this should be against the law, and people should be prosecuted for it. My point is simply that liberalism, as currently constituted, has virtually no defenses against this.
Judges in Belgium have fined a Catholic nursing home for refusing to allow the euthanasia of a lung cancer sufferer on its premises.
The St Augustine rest home in Diest was ordered to pay a total of €6,000 after it stopped doctors from giving a lethal injection to Mariette Buntjens.
Days later, the 74-year-old woman was instead taken by ambulance to her private address to die “in peaceful surroundings”.
Buntjens’ family later sued the nursing home for causing their mother “unnecessary mental and physical suffering”.
This likely means the closing of Catholic nursing homes across Belgium. The Church says it will not comply with what it believes is murder. This is a harbinger of the kinds of decisions US Christians are going to have to make in the years and decades to come.
ITEM: Liberal Canadian couple who vowed to let their newborn decide his or her own gender reflect on the decision five years later (the child, born a girl, has “chosen to identify” as a female; their older child has been “trans-identified” since age six):
Why do you think this story blew up so big?
All sorts of reasons. There’s a fairly ingrained adultism. We don’t largely believe that young people have the right to make their own decisions, which can be different from their parents and guardians. [We live in] a culture where adults tell kids what to do all the time – dress this way, go to this place, eat this thing. So I think that played a certain role. To say my kid can go into Value Village and select their own clothes as long as they fit and are functional, pick whatever you want.’
Or my kid can decide what pronoun they are happy with. It was so new to people.
“Adultism.” These are crazy people.
A woman who wants to use her dead daughter’s frozen eggs to give birth to her own grandchild has won a Court of Appeal battle.
The 60-year-old woman was appealing against the UK regulator’s refusal to allow her to take her only child’s eggs to a US clinic.
Her daughter, who died in 2011, was said to have asked her mother to carry her babies.
The mother lost a High Court case last year.
She was subsequently granted permission to challenge the decision at the Court of Appeal in London, before a panel of three judges.
Utterly perverse. But this is what a technopoly means. Neil Postman’s term refers to a society in which the values of technology are deified. Technopolies don’t ask “should we do this?”; the only relevant question is, “do we have the ability to do this?” You might remember that in Brave New World, all reproduction had been separated from the sexual act. If you haven’t read it, or haven’t read it in a while, you really should. It’s stunning how much our world today is as Huxley foresaw.