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Posts from the ‘Rhetoric’ Category

Pope Francis: a skilled abuser of rhetoric

More on Pope Francis:

Of the three Popes that I’ve lived through so far, Pope Francis is, I’d argue, by far the worst of the bunch (yes, I think that he’s even worse than Benedict, and that’s saying something).

Here’s the thing: if someone is a malicious ideologue, I much prefer that they be open about their maliciousness and their unwavering commitment to a rigid and regressive ideology. Francis doesn’t do that, though. He couches his callousness in pseudo-tolerant and pseudo-progressive rhetoric and hides his dangerous attitudes and beliefs behind a facade of avuncular populist everyman friendliness. And people (not just Catholics) are eating it up, buying into it, proclaiming that Francis is A Different Kind of Pope, one who will change the Church, modernize the Church, make the Church into a progressive entity (needless to say (I hope), none of these proclamations hold up under even the mildest of scrutiny).

If you buy into Pope Francis’s pseudo-tolerant & pseudo-progressive rhetoric, you’re gullible (it happens. It’s a very human trait and a trap we all fall into from time to time, no matter how smart and/or skeptical we are), wilfully ignorant (a form of maliciousness that I have no sympathy for (see the ‘willful’ part)), or committed to the same rigid and backwards ideology that Francis is.

Francis is manipulative. He’s a skilled abuser of rhetoric who knows how to say the “right” things at the “right” time. He’s good PR for the Church. Unlike his immediate predecessors, he’s neither an intellectual nor extremely intelligent. But he’s sly like a fox. He’s a gift to the Church, a perfect Pope for the Catholic Church of 2013.

Two examples of what I’m talking about:

One:

The pseudo-progressive rhetoric: Francis claims to be a friend to the poor. People believe this (partly because much of the mainstream media disseminates this claim without question). They fawn over him, declare him to be A Different Kind of Pope who is ushering in A New Kind of Church.

The reality: Francis’s previously-stated opinions on and actions taken against contraceptive use and access to abortion cancel out his proclaimed desire to remedy poverty and economic inequality (providing easy access to contraception is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce poverty). He has a history of actively opposing the free distribution of contraceptives and he opposes a woman’s right to an abortion, even in cases of rape.

Two:

The pseudo-tolerant rhetoric: Francis claims that he doesn’t judge gay individuals who “accept the Lord and have good will“. The news media is currently eating this up. People are swooning over it.

The reality: Francis’s previously-stated opinions on, vehement opposition to, and actions taken against extending equal legal rights to gays and lesbians cancel out his newfound pseudo-tolerant rhetoric.

And, well, if I have to choose between two powerful individuals who hold the same dangerous opinions and adhere to the same rigid and bigoted ideology, I’ll take an openly intolerant ideologue over a phony and manipulative abuser of rhetoric any day.

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My episode of the Skeptic Canary Show

I had a fantastic time on the Skeptic Canary Show today. The hosts, Tom Williamson (blog/Twitter), David James (blog/Twitter), and Paul Hopwood (blog/Twitter), are lovely and intelligent gents who do a great deal of much-needed and important work for the skeptic community, both in the U.K. and online. We had an interesting, fun, and thought-provoking discussion about a variety of topics, including:

  1. Skepticism and skeptical activism
  2. The scope of the skeptic movement (and the difference between skepticism as a movement and skepticism as a methodology)
  3. Applying skepticism to the testable claims made by religions
  4. The crucially important role that rhetoric and effective communication play in skepticism/skeptical activism/the skeptic movement (i.e. determining and making use of the most effective method of informing/persuading/communicating in any given situation and adapting one’s message and argument to whomever our audience happens to be, always making use of the principle of charity, the importance of acknowledging the fact that many people hold on to their irrational/potentially dangerous beliefs for emotional reasons and thus almost certainly cannot and will not be persuaded by facts alone, the brilliance and wisdom of Ray Hyman’s “Proper Criticism“, etc.)
  5. The fact that many of the things that I teach in my rhetoric/composition courses (critical thinking, why it’s absolutely necessary to support all claims and assertions with evidence from quality sources, how to determine whether or not a source is reliable/credible/etc., applying skepticism to everything we read (including our own writing), etc.) can also be valuable tools for skeptics/skeptical activists.
  6. Teaching how to think instead of teaching what to think
  7. Teaching critical thinking
  8. Atheism, how/why/when I became an atheist, and how being an atheist in the U.K. is almost always a very different experience than being an atheist in America
  9. Catholic childhood religious indoctrination and Catholic guilt (and my experience with both)
  10. Skeptic conferences/events (primarily TAMQED, and SkeptiCamp)
  11. TAM 2013 (only a month away now! :) See my recent post about it here)
  12. And, with the help of my favorite Bob in the world, Bob Blaskiewicz (who very kindly took the time to call in during the show), we discussed the Skepticism Across the Curriculum workshop that Bob and Eve and I will be doing at TAM 2013.
  13. (& I’m sure that we talked about lots of other interesting things that I’ve forgotten to include here (I haven’t yet had the chance to listen to the entire podcast of the episode))

And speaking of the podcast: if you’d like to listen to/download the show, it’s available both on the show’s website and via iTunes.

Thanks again to Tom, David, and Paul for having me on! Be sure to listen to the Skeptic Canary Show live each Wednesday (or download the episodes/podcasts) and visit/”like” the show’s Facebook page if you’re so inclined.

I’ll be on the Skeptic Canary Show today!

The Skeptic Canary Show

Yay! I’m going to be on the Skeptic Canary Show today (Wednesday, June 12th). It airs at 7 p.m. BST (which is 11 a.m. PDT/ 2 p.m. EDT/ 6 p.m. GMT, etc.). It’s a fantastic show hosted by Tom Williamson, David James, and Paul Hopwood.

From the episode description:

For this episode your hosts will be joined by writer, speaker, skeptic and atheist Miranda Celeste Hale. We will be talking about the upcoming TAM conference, skepticism, religion and education.

You can listen live, join the discussion in the chat room, or call in via Skype or telephone (here’s more info on how to call in to the show). If you can’t listen live, or if you prefer the podcast version, the episode will also be available to listen to/download here and via iTunes.

TAM 2013!

Exciting!: The Amazing Meeting 2013 is less than a month away. I’m thrilled to be returning for my second TAM (and to be returning to Las Vegas, one of my favorite places). I had an absolutely wonderful time at TAM 2012 (some of my photos are here): I learned a great deal, experienced many thought-provoking and inspiring talks/events and conversations, had so much fun with dear friends, met some of my “skeptic heroes” (forgive the cheesy phrase) including Ray Hyman (an absolutely brilliant and sweet man. We had quite a few one-on-one conversations last year, and I’ll always be grateful to him for taking the time to talk with me), and, most exciting of all, I was on the Skepticism and the Humanities panel (video here).

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TAM 2013

This year, my friends/TAM 2012 co-panelists/Skeptical Humanities bloggers/two-fifths of the Virtual Skeptics/fellow skeptic teachers Bob Blaskiewicz and Eve Siebert and I will be presenting the Skepticism Across the Curriculum workshop. Bob will be moderating, and, among other things, we’ll be discussing the various ways that we practice skepticism and promote critical thinking as educators and academics and how those practices and methods can be applied and utilized in a variety of contexts (both academic and non-academic). Or, as Bob wrote in the description of the workshop (also available here):

While many skeptics seem to conflate science and skepticism, the two terms are not equivalent. Science, it turns out, is just one form of skeptical inquiry that encompasses many academic disciplines, including those in the humanities. This workshop will introduce the audience to scholarship confronting extraordinary claims across the disciplines. Skepticism may be profitably applied to everything from Ancient Aliens’ mangling of art and art history, literary and folklore studies, mythology, and archeology, to young-earth creationists’ vandalism of all forms of textual scholarship, from Beowulf and Arthurian legend to Biblical studies. These and other extraordinary claims can also be used in classrooms to teach the critical thinking skills needed in all contexts and to introduce the disciplines to popular audiences.

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And here are a few links to some of the things that I’ve written/spoken about that are either directly related to or relevant to what we’ll be covering in the workshop (I’m sure that I’ll be discussing rhetoric quite a lot):

Blog posts:  1, 2, 3, 4

Posts on the JREF‘s Swift Blog: 1, 2

(& Be sure to check out my Lanyrd profile)

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of TAM again, and am looking forward to our workshop (and am glad that I get to work with Bob and Eve once more- they’re fantastic (ahem, “Derrida Zombies“, anyone?) )

There’s so much more that I could say about last year’s experience, or about what I’m looking forward to at TAM 2013, but I’ll hold off on that for now. Anyway, if you’ll be at TAM this year, come check out our workshop!

Vegas awaits… ♥

Las Vegas Airport- July 2012

Catholicism’s rhetoric of suffering

I’ve been thinking about Catholicism’s celebration of suffering. Despite the strange and disturbing nature of this perspective, it is rarely discussed or questioned. This is unfortunate. A celebration of suffering lies at the heart of, and, in the minds of many Catholics, justifies emotionally abusive childhood religious indoctrination, and acknowledging and questioning this rhetoric of suffering is, I’d argue, one way to assist in removing the taboo that often prevents open discussion of the negative after-effects of Catholic childhood religious indoctrination. I’ll offer a few brief thoughts here and I encourage you to offer your own, in the comments section or elsewhere.

Read more

‘Idealism as Intrinsic Motivation’- (my latest post for the JREF’s Swift Blog)

Tonight, as I started to ponder what to write about in my next post for the JREF‘s Swift Blog, I realized that I’d forgotten to share my previous Swift post here. It’s called “Idealism as Intrinsic Motivation“.

A brief excerpt:

However, although idealism is a powerful intrinsic motivator for educators and skeptical activists alike, it is not enough. If we wish to be successful in our attempts to inform, educate, persuade, and promote critical thinking and evidence-based decision making (inside or outside of the classroom) we first need to accept that our passionate idealism is only a start. Idealism is a valuable, admirable, and useful personality trait, one that indicates a principled refusal to succumb to the apathy and cynicism that pervades much of contemporary society. That being said, though, we must also acknowledge that while our idealism motivates us to inform, enlighten, and promote evidence-based decision making (in the classroom or otherwise), in order to turn motivation into action, we must be willing to be both idealists and pragmatists. Idealism alone doesn’t accomplish anything. Although this may not be something we often consider when analyzing our own contributions to skeptical activism, the professional educators and/or skeptical activists who we admire and respect the most are almost certainly the ones who acknowledge (through their words and/or their actions) that pragmatism, discipline, and hard work are just as important as idealism.

The rest of the post is available here.

Thanks for reading!

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