Thursday, September 5, 2013

Video games, Atheists and insults…

I’ve been playing the rerelease of Final Fantasy XIV since it came out, which explains why I haven’t been blogging lately. There are a lot of things I enjoy about playing MMO’s, not the least of which is the personal interactions. There is something I find interesting about joining a group of people from around the world that I may have never met and working together to to accomplish a goal, even if the goal is imaginary.

However, I often find myself in a love/hate relationship with the social aspects of MMO’s, as I happened to find myself last night. I was in a party I joined through “duty finder,” which is a queue system for the dungeons in the game. Since the dungeons cannot be completed by yourself the queue will put random players looking to complete the same dungeon in a party together. You can meet some cool people this way, but you can also meet some not so cool people as I did last night.

Within ten minutes one of the players made a mistake which made another person in the group angry. What followed was 20 minutes of listening to the two people complain and name call, including homophobic slurs like “faggot.” I kept my mouth shut and just finished the dungeon. Perhaps I should have said something, but I usually find that asking people to not use such language causes them to simply start going after me under the false assumption that I’m thin skinned. I also know I only have to listen to them for a bit and then they are gone for good. Of course, it disappoints me when I see gamers behave this way. As a large group of nerds we have plenty of reasons to be more sensitive to the other humans hanging out on this tiny ball in space we call earth, so it disappoints me when I see people fail badly at it.

Now, as much as it disappoints me when my fellow gamers behave like this, it disappoints me even more when fellow atheists do so. As with gamers we are a group of people who ought to recognize the need for respect but often do not. Take this recent story in which a bakery who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding is now closing down as an example.

Now, let me be clear about a few things. I am not on the side of the bakery in regards to their choice not to serve their customers. They were running a secular business and thus are subject to civil discrimination laws. Nor do I accept the owners argument that they were not discriminating.

It’s definitely not discrimination at all. We don't have anything against lesbians or homosexuals, It has to do with our morals and beliefs.

This argument doesn’t work because discrimination is an act not a belief. I accept that their religious beliefs were the cause of the refusal to serve these homosexual customers, but it doesn’t change the fact that they refused to serve them because they were gay. This is pretty much the dictionary definition of discrimination. You can argue that companies should be allowed to discriminate if you wish, but don’t pretend it isn’t discrimination.

I am also not particularly sad that they are closing down. Ideally this is how capitalism works. If your company does something that makes people not want to shop there then you go out of business. It’s tough luck for you that you are on the wrong side of history and you went out of business because of it.

However, there is a part of this story that I do have a problem with. Due to this story the owners have reported receiving abusive/threatening communication from fellow atheists and supporters of LBGT rights. Including, according to the Blaze, threats that they be raped, and shot.

One quote from an email they received:

You stupid bible-thumping, hypocritical bitch.  I hope your kids get really, really, sick and you go out of business

Such behavior should be unacceptable, these people, despite their discriminatory attitudes, are still human beings, and their children are innocent of any wrong doing in this so they should not be a target in any of this. We really ought to aim to be better people than this and to treat people with more respect.

This certainly isn’t to say the other side does any better, the article on the blaze about this story is full of comments declaring that anyone who thinks the bakery should have served the lesbian couple are secretly communists who want to turn America into a fascist police state, while simultaneously failing to notice their behavior is no better than those they are criticizing. However, our opponents irrational behavior should not be treated as an excuse to behave irrationally ourselves.

Whether you are playing a video game or trying to enact social change we should at least start the conversation with the assumption that people can be reasoned with. We certainly do not know these owners well enough to conclude that they are beyond reasoning with about these issues. We might be able to reason them out of the prejudices, however, insults and rape threats are most certainly not going to change their minds.

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