Life is not lived in black and white

Life is not lived in black and white

Someone by the name of Lawrence Newman left a comment under the Freethinker article about the tragic suicide of transgender teen, Leelah Alcorn, above:

As a logical atheist, it amazes me how other atheists can sit here and act so outraged that these parents are saying they had a son. He WAS a male. This is a biological fact. A male saying he is a female doesn’t make it so. Feelings do not override biological facts.

There was a little more, wherein the author complains about the “religion” of liberalism, but the quoted paragraph is the main thrust.

I don’t, particularly, wish to pick on Lawrence Newman, but I’ve seen distressingly far too many comments saying much the same thing, by allegedly reason-led, logic-led, evidence-led atheists and self-described freethinkers. He merely provides a handy example.

An analogy:

All your life, you’ve been happily sorting black and white blocks into two neat piles according to colour. Then one day someone points out to you that some blocks exist which are various shades of grey. That some blocks have different colours on different faces. That yet more blocks which appear black or white are merely disguised by a thin and superficial coat of paint.

Now, if you’re wedded to a binary dogma of black-and-white, you could continue to place your blocks into two nice, easy-to-understand piles, based on a best-fit schema, itself based on superficial characteristics. You could, in the face of all the evidence that gender dysphoria is a real thing, insist on categorising people by the shape of the genitalia they were born with.

That would be, I suggest, the dogmatic method. The religious method.

As “logical atheists”, as freethinkers, who claim to reject thinking based on tradition and dogma, who claim to base our ideas on evidence, surely we should admit that, regardless of what tradition says, or a holy book, there is no way to sort our blocks into two neat piles.

To quote the linked NHS page:

Gender dysphoria is a recognised medical condition, for which treatment is sometimes appropriate. It is not a mental illness.

Lesbians are not women who merely think they are romantically and sexually attracted to women. They are so attracted. Homosexual men are attracted to men. Bisexuals are attracted to all. Most atheists seem to have no trouble with the L, the G and the B. Why, then, should it be so hard to also accept the T?

Lawrence Newman is right about one thing. Feelings do not override biological facts. And those feelings include his own wish to easily pigeon-hole people.

The fact is that we do not live in a black and white world. We don’t even live in a greyscale world. Far from this being an argument based on some liberal quasi-religion, the empirical evidence informs us that we live in a beautiful, dazzling and utterly enchanting rainbow world.

Only a dogmatist would insist on denying that many-hued beauty, in favour of a regimented, easily categorised, but above all false and harmful monochrome.

• Daron Artingstall is well known on the Internet as “Daz”, the creator of very entertaining The Dixie Flatline blog, and – more recently – the hilarious The Hutton Delusion, in which the writings of Internet troll and evangelist Bob Hutton – “the Sage of Broadstairs” – is subjected to critical analysis.

16 responses to “Life is not lived in black and white”

  1. John says:

    Speaking as a bisexual atheist, I’d like to say that I’m not actually attracted to all people. Just most. 😉

  2. David Anderson says:

    Nice OP Daz. I was surprised that Lawrence Newman didn’t know about gender dysphoria but then considering the number of misogynist, racist and homophobic atheists that have been coming out of the woodwork lately, not so much. I’m not suggesting that Lawrence is any of those but considering that Leelah committed suicide over it, I think anyone might deduce that she didn’t just say that she was female she was.

  3. Jaqueline says:

    Identity is about feelings. We are not automatons. Feelings are an integral part of who we are.

    One bit of wisdom my mother used to tell me when I was young, and one which I have found highly useful over the years, is that no one can tell you what to feel, and you can’t tell anyone else what to feel. One does not need to be able to empathise completely with another person’s feelings to accept what they say about themselves.

    Depression can be a deadly disease and calling a Christian counselor rather than a psychiatrist if you have a suicidal child should be regarded the same way as we might regard someone calling a faith healer if their child had a purely physical illness.

  4. JohnMWhite says:

    By coincidence I’ve been on a proclaimers kick lately and just happened to spot a comment on this video by one Lawrence Newman:


    I thumbed this down because it promoted gay “marriage”. Good goys.

    Such a “free” thinker this character seems to be, assuming it is one and the same.

  5. barriejohn says:

    David Anderson: I’m not convinced that they are all atheists by any means. Some follow Robert Spencer, and he is a Greek Orthodox Catholic and supporter of Zionism (he was also asked whether he was being deliberately provocative at times and replied: “Why not – it’s fun”, which tells you all that you need to know about the lot of them). They swarm all over the site when Islam is mentioned, which I think is a deliberate tactic. Visiting this site is not the pleasure that it used to be!

  6. Stephen Mynett says:

    Good point Barriejohn, there is a considerable difference between disliking religious oppression and indoctrination and simply just disliking someone because they are religious, the latter could justifiably be termed Islamophobia while campaigning against FGM is not.

    The problem with a lot of them is the seem to adopt the “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” approach, which is bunk. We had an idiot spouting a lot of claptrap a while back about the state of Islam in Germany and the number of discontent Germans. It was, of course, untrue but it was also pointless to argue with him, although it is interesting to see now that the numbers protesting against Pediga are far greater than the numbers amassed by the rabble-rousers.

  7. Daz says:


    Yeah, I must admit to not even bothering to read the comments on most Muslim stories these days.

  8. barriejohn says:

    Daz: But just take a look at comments being appended to various threads today along the lines of “Muslims would be acting far worse than this”. I can’t be bothered to respond to that sort of irrelevant nonsense.

  9. Marky Mark says:

    I think the comparison of black and white blocks was excellent, and it does seem that the “Grey Area” really does mess these people up. Such a narrow minded way of seeing the world around them.

  10. Astrostevo says:

    Fifty shades of gray?

    Well writ.

    People are people and we’re all individuals (“I’m not!”*) with different life experiences, personalities and yes, genders plural and more’n’one. Somebody elses gender id and /or sexual orientation is only relevant if you are seeking to become romantically engaged with them. Sometimes not even then. Leastaways how it should be I reckon.

    * Apologies to Monty Python & The Life of Brian’ here.

  11. dennis says:

    just pain all the way around. the poor truck driver , Ms Alcorn and her poor delusional parents. atheist who carry baggage of some religion into life. if, we as humans could understand ” fifty shades of gray” instead of white and black cubes ” the world would be one” I am having an optimistic day. thank you Mr John Lennon.

  12. Mo says:

    Which sex you prefer to be or wish to become is in the mind and hence often in the behaviour. Sex changes and hormone injections do not alter the sex determining chromosomes one is born with. There’s nothing grey about that. It’s a black and white scientific fact. BTW, the human skeletal structure will always remain that of male or a female, no matter how petit or large it may be and regardless of how many hormones ingested or sex changes performed etc., etc.

  13. Cali Ron says:

    I believe you are incorrect. Explain hermaphrodites, born with both genitalia. From Wikipedia: Humans, as well as some other organisms, can have a chromosomal arrangement that is contrary to their phenotypic sex, that is, XX males or XY females. See, for example, XX male syndrome and androgen insensitivity syndrome. Additionally, an abnormal number of sex chromosomes (aneuploidy) may be present, such as Turner’s syndrome, in which a single X chromosome is present, and Klinefelter’s syndrome, in which two X chromosomes and a Y chromosome are present, XYY syndrome and XXYY syndrome.[1] Other less common chromosomal arrangements include: triple X syndrome, 48, XXXX, and 49, XXXXX.

  14. Cali Ron says:

    Sorry I didn’t get to this opinion sooner, I’m behind on my reading it seems. I meant to compliment your excellent opinion piece in my last post (very good analogy), but got so distracted by Mo’s comment I forgot. I wonder if he actually read your opinion piece.

    Celebrate Diversity!

  15. barriejohn says:

    Cali Ron: That’s ridiculous.


    The world has to be simple for these simple minds.

  16. Daz says:

    We talk about gender, and so Mo gives us a mini-lecture on sex. That ‘whoosh’ you just heard, Mo? That was the point passing over your head.

    Hey Mo!