My friend Kate Nepveu has pinged me to remind folks that this year’s Con or Bust auctions are soon to begin — these are auctions of cool science fiction and fantasy related stuff, with the funds raised from the auctions going to help fans of color attend science fiction and fantasy conventions. Auctions include ARCs, signed editions, posts by notable bloggers on the subject of the auction winner’s choice, and other such cool and interesting stuff. Also, if you have something you’d like to offer to the auction, in the way of goods or services, you can do that too.
The auctions begin on the 11th (that’s this Saturday), so there’s time to browse the current auctions to see if there’s anything you like and/or do a last minute auction contribution.
Slate (reprinting from the Financial Times) has a story onhow difficult it is to be an atheist in the United States. I read the piece with the same attitude that I have regarding most pieces about how difficult it is to be atheist/agnostic in the US, which is with a mild sense of dissonance. I have been the sort of agnostic that shorthands into “atheist” for all of my thinking life, and I haven’t made any secret of my lack of faith. The negative consequences for such a lifestyle choice, so far, at least, have been pretty minimal and indeed close to non-existent. I’m not saying other agnostics and atheists have not suffered negative consequences for their lack of belief; I’m sure they have. What I’m saying is that I haven’t, and it’s mildly curious to me why I have not.
Naturally, I have theories.
The first and most obvious: I am white, male, heterosexually paired, educated and financially well-off — i.e., the advantages I have are substantial and immediately apparent in our culture, so that even if being agnostic somehow offers a disadvantage, it’s swamped out by other factors. I have privilege in ridiculous amounts and I know it.
Second, neither in my social nor in my work life is being an agnostic a penalty. I write for a living; the writing I do is consumed by a class of people (science fiction and fantasy readers) who generally are not only not scandalized by my agnosticism, but might be mildly surprised if I did have strong religious beliefs. Likewise, my social peers are currently other writers and people who tend toward professions where a lack of strong religious belief is not a problem (science and tech-related fields, with some overlap in creative professions). So again, my lack of faith is really not a penalty.
(One interesting wrinkle on this: I live in a rural, conservative community and have for more than a decade. Rural conservative communities are just the sort of place where atheists and agnostics aren’t supposed to fit in. But in eleven years living here I can’t remember it ever being an issue. I suspect one reason for this is that many of folks here are from churches which have an active policy of tolerance and an emphasis on one’s good works. I suspect that another reason is that people here know I’m a writer and just assume writers are odd ducks anyway.)
Third, as far as being agnostic goes, while I’m perfectly open about it, I’m not aggressively so, nor am I generally antagonistic toward the concept of faith. I’m perfectly happy for others to have faith, and generally speaking I don’t take offense at the display of faith around me, or stand against it so long as that expression of faith does not encroach on my own rights and prerogatives. If having faith and/or being religious gives you joy, then have it and be it; for myself, I’ll pass, thanks. I think it also helps that, from my own personal interest, I know a fair amount about a number of faiths and can speak with at least passing knowledge about them (and am often curious about the things I don’t know). People with faith assume those without it have no knowledge, interest or respect for faith. If you let them know you do, in my experience a lot of suspicion goes away.
Fourth, I’ve been lucky. I grew up without a religious background, so I didn’t have to rebel against it. My education was at schools that actively encouraged pluralism and tolerance for faith, including the absence of faith — I was on my high school’s “Faith Gang” as a representative of secular humanism, for example. I’ve gotten through life largely surrounded by tolerant people, both of faith and without it, which allowed me to develop my own views on faith without undue defensiveness or division. Not everyone has that.
Add it all up and you get an agnostic experience without ostracism or penalty, at least so far. I am led to believe that my lack of faith will keep me from being President of the United States, but inasmuch as that’s not actually a life goal for me (and Krissy wouldn’t let me anyway), this is not a huge setback. Otherwise, essentially, it’s not been a problem for me. I wish others who choose not to believe were as fortunate as I have been.
Wow, I gotta tell ya, I really suck at prognosticating this GOP primary season. Just this weekend I mentioned how it was a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, and here it is Wednesday and Rick Santorum has just won the caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado as well as the Missouri primary, with Mitt a distant second in Missouri and Colorado and third in Minnesota (with Ron Paul second!), and poor angry Newt third in CO, fourth in MN, and not even on the ballot in MO at all. If predicting GOP results were my job, I would totally fire me. But then again, after last night I would not be the only person who would have to be fired. There would be a lot of unemployed people today. Which would drive down employment numbers! And that’s good for the GOP’s chances this year. Sorry, I’m rambling.
I also have to tell you that I like this GOP primary season. It’s exciting. By this time Romney was supposed to be blandly cruising his way to the nomination, held aloft by large stacks of money and the air of inevitability cash manufactures, but here on February 8, Santorum has won as many states as more states than Romney has, and while Romney has twice the delegates as Santorum (thanks to Florida’s “winner take all” primary), his lead is not unassailable. Now Romney will have to spend even more money! To fight off Rick Santorum. Who in a rational universe would have been packed away long before now.
Meanwhile: Newt Gingrich, who at this point is not in the race to win it but to hurt Mitt Romney as much as possible between now and the day, hopefully in the late spring, when Romney drags his battered carcass over the 1,144 delegate line he needs to take the nomination. Newt will be sniping Mitt all the way, and Mitt will be distracted by having to deal with Santorum while he does so. This is my new scenario. Because why not.
And yes, I still think Romney’s going to take it, eventually (and yes, probably sooner than later). But, hey, who knows, right? It could be Santorum! I find him a querulous bigot, but apparently “querulous bigot” in Scalzi World equates to “genuine conservative” in GOP Land, and the genuine conservatives out there apparently aren’t happy with Romney and his actual governing track record in Massachusetts. Could Santorum capitalize on his victories last night? Sure. Could GOP voters become increasingly disenchanted with Romney? Absolutely. Will Gingrich stay on mission to stab Romney through the eyeballs at every possible opportunity? You know he will. Santorum could drag it out! And pick up delegates! And win the nomination!
And then get slaughtered in the general election, since outside of GOP circles, querulous bigots are probably bad presidential candidates here in 2012. But if the GOP wants to try the Santorum Solution, then I wouldn’t be the one to try to stop them. Please, GOPers, run Rick Santorum for president. Indeed: Santorum/Bachmann 2012. It would be the best ticket ever. For values of “best” that don’t mean what “best” usually does, mind you; even so.
Anyway, as I said: exciting. Good for the GOP or the nation? Probably not so much. But this is where we are at the moment. I couldn’t tell you where we go from here. The suspense is killing me! I hope it will last!