Hey, I’m an U.S.American atheist, so if I have a major gripe about irrational belief systems, it’s usually about Christianity. But I’m not that picky — other irrational beliefs annoy me, as well.
Since I just moved back to Taos, New Mexico after three years away, it’s New Ageism that’s got my goat at the moment. Sure Taos is a predominantly Catholic community, and that’s obnoxious in all the usual ways, but for all its visibility Catholicism isn’t what really annoys me in this town. It’s the New Age bullshit that really makes steam shoot out my ears — from the “Crystal Shaman” who claims to heal cancer to the widespread belief in Astrology, to the UFOlogists cowering in fear of the end of the Mayan calendar, Taos offers a plethora of nutty pseudo-religious nonsense.
Maybe New Ageism annoys me so much because, politically, most Taos nuts and I see eye-to-eye on most important issues. Even the Catholics are Democrats — 95% of the 2008 vote went to Obama. Sexism, racism and homophobia are taboos on the order of incest and the biggest complaint about, for instance, Obamacare(s) is that the Public Option would’ve been better.
One minute I’m really enjoying the feeling of agreeing so completely with someone I’m talking to, and the next minute they’re insisting that aliens invented civilization. It’s head-exploding nuts, but at least it’s left-wing head-exploding nuts — or that’s what I tell myself.
In truth, it’s religion no different from right-wing religion. New Ageism is particularly infuriating because I came to my political positions by way of reason, and the nuts prove that many others have not bothered to think about why they hold the positions they do — the liberal New Ager didn’t come to the rational conclusion that homosexuals should have the same rights as anyone else. They just believe it, and that’s enough.
But it’s not enough, because not one of them can explain why they hold progressive positions on social issues. For them, it’s simply a part of the creed, and as an atheist I cannot ignore that fact. It means that even progressive positions can be arrived at by the lazy road, a road which I disdain. It demeans those progressive positions to blindly adhere to them without resort to (Goddess forbid!) ‘reason’ and ‘science’. Indeed, as a math major I have often confronted prejudice against science by true-believing New Agers who blame Einstein for the Bomb, instead of the politicians who commissioned it.
Moreover, it’s infuriating because New Agers are not used to having their bullshit called by a fellow progressive — a guy called “Sky Baba” who just left the cafe once asked me, “Whose side are you on?” when I expressed the opinion that Hanuman (a Hindu monkey god) was as fictional as Jesus Christ. It’s hard to express how palpable this false conflation of progressive politics and New Age belief is in Taos. It’s as thick as Mesa mud after a monsoon.
I say, so be it. I have enough friends, and refuse to withdraw to a hermitage whilst New Agers demean the progressive cause by their association with it. I call bullshit on Christians who forcibly insert their prayers to Jesus into public politics. And I will call bullshit on New Agers who do the same thing with Wiccan tree-spirits (or whatever). Neither has any place in public discourse, and frankly it hands the right-wing fundies ammunition — Portlandia-style — when progressives justify their positions by any means other than reason, itself.
I’m back, Taos, and ornery as ever.