Lizard People



"So what point are you trying to argue for? That 'society' (whatever that is) shouldn't 'encourage' what you dismiss as 'institutional fantasy'? What if other people don't agree with you? What if they don't consider it fantasy? What if it's something very important to them?" — Well, sure, we might derive that implication from Capracus' question, it actually seems kind of obvious. But as a matter of your approach, I think of questions about shaping a discussion↗, and that can include Capracus, as well, but, again, we'll come back to that, though I think some part of it is obvious. Still: If we think of the question as, ¿What should I single out as an example? perhaps it might occur to wonder why this or any discussion should need to stake itself against anything so particularly.

Thus: What point is he trying to argue for? I'm not entirely certain he was making that kind of point. You, however, presumed such context, that society shouldn't encourage institutional fantasy, a context very nearly like expecting religion, religious belief, and religious behavior among social humans will someday go away. There is actually a much more functional reading: "When you live in a society that encourages the acceptance of institutional religious fantasy is it really surprising that you end up with behavior like this?" No, it is not surprising at all. Now: How does it work, what are the implications, and how is it best addressed?

Even as a more compressed, colloquial expression of what are we going to do about it, the question is not necessarily a matter of whether society should encourage or not; to some degree, socialization itself requires some manner of cooperative compromise that eventually evolves into something akin to behavioral cult and code according to a communally accepted creed of importance transcending the mundane. A pretense of virtue seems universal among societies we have records of, even at their worst. To make a mundane political point about the hypocrisy of rightist lamentations against virtue signaling might overlook the underlying reality that virtue signaling is actually a socialization behavior of much significance in human history and societal evolution; that is to say, virtue signaling is part of what social creatures do. Though a coincidental aspect is that given rightist lamentation, progressives and liberals are almost entirely gobsmacked by the performative antisociality as virtue signaling occurring among traditionalist-supremacist interests.

It seems an interesting setup; the question of what point he is trying to argue for stages your own proposition that society shouldn't encourage institutional fantasy. But to a certain degree, the philosopher in you is already aware the answer to your questions about disagreement—"What if other people don't agree with you? What if they don't consider it fantasy? What if it's something very important to them?"—is not so straightforward.

The current antivax question includes religious beliefs, and harms other people. Who do we owe what if someone doesn't consider being protected by Jesus' blood a fantasy, and, sure, it's important to them, but on the list of reasons for not being vaccinated, no, that doesn't really work. What if it's something very important to them? That reminds me of "sincerely held beliefs", a notion by which the state is supposed to enforce particular prejudice against other people because not doing so would offend someone else's sincerely held beliefs.

I tell an old story, sometimes; it's from the Nineties, when Christianism assailed politics in my area, and we were repeatedly asked to actually vote on Christian principles and demands in elections. The old story is about a library book complaint, and the punch line is the argument that Christian parent's First Amendment right to free religion is violated as long as the author, library, and everyone else's First Amendment right to free speech remains intact. We didn't call it cancel culture, back then; it was just censorship. But that's also a period in which a particular complaint started resonating in mundane politics associated with traditionalism and conservative Christianism, that their rights were violated by being prohibited from disrupting other people's rights. Over the last quarter-century, at least, the traditionalist argument has played this faux-victim role over and over again. Once upon a time it was books and movies and music, and it's one thing if some people disagree with the author of a novel and insist that the anticommunist book is in fact pro-Communist and anticapitalist, and maybe it's really important to them to disqualify this iteration of God, goodness, and righteousness, but the part where a freaking Shakespeare joke can only be elder group lesbian porn is entirely one's own fantasy, I mean imagination, I mean decision. (No, really, the one was McCammon's Demon Walk, and the other L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.)

We've heard similar complaints throughout: Creationism and "Intelligent Design"; the arc of the Gay Fray leading to marriage equality begins with either family courts and labor boards not being mean enough to gay people, if we take the Christianist narrative, or it opens with what books are allowed to be in the library (Newman's Heather Has Two Mommies), if we follow the narrative out of Oregon towns and onto the state ballots there and in Colorado. Who can remember Mitt Romney fumbling "Blunt-Rubio", because, you know, your rights as an employer might be violated if you can't tell your employee's insurance company what medical services and treatments your employees are allowed or not.

There are times when the reply can feel inconsequential: "What if other people don't agree with you?" Well, then they don't agree. "What if they don't consider it fantasy?" Well, that's their business. "What if it's something very important to them?" Again, that's their business. Still, at what point does it become anyone else's?

In my youth, stuffy traditionalists used to take the swinging of the fist to the tip of the other's nose as an example to proscribe free speech, that another's right to free speech ends at the traditionalist ear; that has largely been a one-way principle, and in the time since has fueled the idea that certain assertions of traditional values are suppressed if they cannot suppress others.

Certes, disputes about music and movies and books continue, but the underlying principle, the presupposition of privilege, is similar in many questions, so it includes all sorts of consequential assertions to disrupt marriages, health care access, and yes, even the immediate health and safety of other people.

So, those folks who might disagree, as such: Yes, we know it's important to them, and they don't consider it a fantasy, but, Yazata, in your opinion, how many other people need to die for them in order that their rights aren't violated?

And, yes, I know, there is a lot wrapped up in all this; that's one of the points of working through the paragraphs in reverse order. Reading through them in order presents a neat and easy pathway to equivocation. Picking them apart, that we might understand how your shaping of an argument works, shows there really is quite a lot that goes into it.​

The interesting thing is the weakness of what Capracus asks. I said we'd come back to it, and in its own way it's a pretty straightforward consideration that seems to have gotten lost along the way. The problematic breadth of the question has to do with acknowledging that no, it's not really surprising that such tragic outcomes occur. The thing is, it's not just "the acceptance of institutional religious fantasy", but, rather, the communication, accommodation, and acceptance of all sorts of institutionalized fantasies. Watch Americans reckon with our catastrophe in Afghanistan; observe how Nazis, terfs, and incels share traditionally institutionalized expectations of women that are very familiar to conservative Christians. Institutionalized fantasy?

In trying to untangle the historical-traditional threads, there comes a point at which determining the chicken and egg of institutionalizing religious sentiment within our human societal endeavors becomes futile; it is comparatively recently that we have sought to separate them.

But, yeah, that's about it. I mean, as one known to razz Capracus↗ when the occasion seems to call for it I am, this time 'round, much more fascinated by the reactions disputing his inquiry.

It's also true that more than any particular religion, religious belief, or religious affiliation, the most influential connections between acceptance of institutional religious fantasy and tragic outcomes of conspiracism feel somehow obscure, because they have to do with societal response to ranges of antisociality when those iterations are dressed in particular, often religious, symbols. The effective currency is empowerment, a generally foreseeable result↗ when societies undergo rapid social changes, and it's true, a lot of politics have run on suggestions of empowerment that simply cannot come to bear, so that some feel even more disempowered when those ambitions fail. In the end, what it comes down to is that maybe it's important to those people, and maybe they really don't think their justification is fantasy, but what they require is that others are harmed, so, no. Do you disagree, and think society should encourage such "institutionalized fantasy"?


Consider the implication of what you said, Yazata, what Capracus dismisses as "institutional fantasy". If I wonder why you put something different in quote marks than what Capracus said, "institutional religious fantasy", it is because the difference between the two descriptions is not only vast, but the actual problem with his inquiry.

After all, the presence of religious influences and symbols is undeniable; it is not, as Exchemist↑ put it, that the Archbishop or Pope should be blamed; the question of having "evidence that institutional religion had anything to do with this incident" is itself interesting, inasmuch as it can suggest a low threshold, e.g., an affirmative answer can require even less than the child killer having discussed the conspiracism with a fellow Christian.

But that isn't quite what the topic inquiry is after. What Capracus is after specifically is entirely its own, but his inquiry doesn't seem so narrow or direct. What he seems to be referring to has more to do with a cultural effect or result. Consider the number of religious people in the United States. That is a lot of people, and significant cultural influence, living day to day in praxis that accepts some aspect of religious fantasy. By the time we get around to piling on with mention of Illuminati, which includes magickal and religious symbolism, there isn't really any question that "institutional religious fantasy" and "institutional religion" have some connection to the tragedy.

And it's why Origin's↑ suggestion that this is not "any sort of reflection on society or religion in general" feels too easy: Even as an act of insanity, it would be extraordinarily rare for these killings to be the sort of insanity that has nothing to do with the world around it.

It always stood out to me, in the wake of the Tucson mass shooting ten years ago that, after all the years in which we were supposed to believe listening to Ozzy or Judas Priest would make kids kill themselves, or listening to King Diamond would turn them into Devil-worshipping killers, we were suddenly supposed to accept that a crazy guy with a gun could not possibly have been influenced by civic leaders participating in gun-violence rhetoric and even targeting opponents with crosshairs. If you have enough crazy people with guns, and offer them enough rhetoric to transform into an excuse, at least one of them will eventually pop off.° It's a striking contrast: The kids aren't smart enough to listen to heavy metal or rap, but there's no way a crazy person with a gun could ever be so crazy as to do something crazy with a gun just because he thought someone told him to. Even still, did those Christianists that Christianized kids going through predictable developmental processes and associated contrarian—i.e., "rebellious"—behaviors really think their kids would behave randomly? Atheism, witchcraft, and Satanism; there are reasons why those are such frequent manifestations in a Christianized framework that describes the Devil, his witches, and devilish atheism as the alternative. So, sure, there might be a reason why this or that crazy person might describe a Satanic framework.

That a father killed his children might have been, in and of itself, inevitable. This is an interesting question, but I have no idea how to go about proving or demonstrating that inevitability to reasonable degree of confidence. My point, however, is that he did so for these reasons, and moved to do so at this time, and that is not unrelated to the QAnon-Illuminati serpent conspiracy theory.

To the one, what difference would it make if he was an atheist? It is unclear, but here we come to the difference between institutional fantasy either religious or general. Atheism as a living reality is not any inoculation of the atheist against irrationality; as a simple adjective, any number of prejudices, conspiracy theories, or other such crankery is atheistic if it happens to lack any theistic°° aspect. It is, then, one thing if, as I suggested earlier, part of a prejudicial standard in play is derived from a religious custom, but any given iteration of a derivative need not include the God part; if something is just the way it is, that will suffice.

It is not necessary that one believe in God in order to believe the QAnon conspiracy theory; even the anti-Semitism of the lizard-people conspiracy theory does not actually require belief in God in order to despise Jews as a matter of basic racism. It is not necessary that one believe in God in order to believe extraterrestrials meddle in human affairs.

Even more than the question of what if the killer was atheistic, though, is the point that nontheistic conspiracism spreads very similarly. The lack of asserted divinity can make a difference, but it is not always clear in what way.

Think of the idea that in my time, many atheists made a big deal out of fact and objectivity and stuff like that, and, well, that's actually part of a political discussion for another time, because when it comes to incorrect and stupid ideas that have no ostensible assertion of theism, it's already known that such attiudes about facts and objectivity do not prevent belief in and action upon conspiracism and make-believe.

In this way, the answer to the topic inquiry says no it's not surprising, and wonders why one asks.

So, here is an example of how it can possibly make a difference, depending on any given case. Someone I know, who happens to be an atheist, happens to clodhop a bizarre political line in which he isn't this or that, and doesn't sympathize with any of it, yet somehow manages to recite certain obvious and usual platitudes. And in American history, at least, one of the differences between the platitudes and the people they are intended to shield from criticism is that so many of those have abandoned their cover.

That atheist I've known for years doesn't seem to believe in such conspiracies, but if you look at the underlying values, much of what we see in the seething supremacist rage of our American moment is simply the open statement of what he considered inappropriate to suggest of others; it's what he was shielding, even occasionally trying to justify or, at least, make excuses for. If he allows himself to be defined by his skepticism, then it is true one can sketch a grim picture. Still, per our question of institutional religious fantasy, the fact of his atheism and skepticism might also be part of why he does not abandon the shelter of dignified pretense; that is, the most valuable thing he has in the Universe is not at stake, thus he does not decide according to that priority.

Still, it is important to observe that the Tucson shooter disdained religion, yet was swayed by make-believe accepted and advocated°°° by a prominent bloc of allegedly respectable societal influencers, i.e., Republicans, an ostensibly nonsectarian bloc with a generational history promoting institutional fantasy. Religious influence in conservative fancy is a long and fraught discussion, though; chicken or egg, it's probably overdone.

There are any number of superficial examples: Creationism to "intelligent design", sure, but also the transition from religious freedom to "sincerely held beliefs" and their trumptime progeny, "alternative facts".

Like the Simpsons joke: We pretend certain delusions aren't delusional. Or, if delusion is somehow an unfair word, what is actually happening in this or that believer's brain; something about patients and neurological data goes here, but how many results are we going to find that outwardly express a fundamental lack of belief but also insist on enforcing the otherwise religious outlook, anyway? It's a fascinating question, to examine what belief means as a neurological question per individual believers, but also extraneous to the point that society continues to practice certain manners of influential belief that cannot be shown true, and, often, are believed true despite fact and evidence.

Which brings us back around to the philosopher in you and the equivocation you require.

And there's also that parenthetic note:

(I'm an agnostic, and my agnosticism applies to atheist pieties as well as to those of religion.)

Because it's one thing to say so, but you do not seem to be applying ... okay, sure, how about: What does that even mean? The equivocation really stands out.

One thing about letting these posts sit so long is that I haven't figured what to do about other, similar killings that have emerged in the meantime. Clearly, the question of "a society that encourages the acceptance of institutional religious fantasy" is relevant. The actual question might be a mystery, but, still, if society has let its fancy run so far, we might wonder just how far that is, and why we must go there.


° The 2011 Tucson shooting killed six and wounded a Member of Congress among others; in the time since, society has learned a new term, stochastic terrorism, to describe endeavors to exploit others in order to incite them to violence. That's how far we've come, that influential societal players can be seen calculating how to incite other people to violence without direct advocacy, essentially market-pitching people into violent outrage. Nor is its political orientation surprising.

°° I am not in the mood, at this time, to parse between the theistic and supernatural, as the difference is extraneous to our moment.

°°° … (and, later, defended) …