Heathen

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Enigma
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Heathen

Post by Enigma » Fri Oct 14, 20:04 2016

Okay this is sort of another rant where I sigh about a band I like making an offensive song. And sort of too much info about my life. But it's more about... am I the only one who finds this offensive? What does the word heathen mean to you guys?

Back story: I grew up Unitarian Universalist in a fairly suburban community. This meant literally no one had ever heard of it. (Not sure if that'd be different elsewhere mind you) Which meant a fair amount of convincing people that no we aren't the ones in the simpsons who worship aliens and fending off a fair amount of subtle (and not subtle) conversion attempts (usually an invitation to visit their church and a look of horror if I reciprocated the invitation). Anyways I became slightly bitter about Christians who looked down their nose at me. Cut to now. I love Twenty One Pilots. Their conscious vulnerability and catchy songs made them one of my new favourites. They recently made a song for Suicide Squad called Heathens. Which basically is a song which equates the word heathen with criminal/murderous behaviour? I'm sure you've heard it. They've had massive radio play. It's driving me up the wall though. It's really offending me and I feel kind of weird saying that. But I feel like I need to get it off my chest. Hence ranting. But I'm also curious if my feelings on this word are affected by my weirdly specific background.

So what's your opinion? Offensive? Generic term to indicate non big three believing people? Somewhere in the middle?
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Re: Heathen

Post by filmmakingally » Sat Oct 15, 2:24 2016

Yeah, I think you're kinda being a little sensitive on this one. I listened to the song, and I don't see the same connections that you are making. I don't see how they are equating heathenism with criminality. Quite the opposite, I think they are normalizing it.

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Re: Heathen

Post by Sonic# » Sat Oct 15, 8:22 2016

I don't think you're being too sensitive.

My partner went to a seminary to obtain an M.Div. She's UU. The seminary was Methodist but open to other religions. To the seminary's credit, most of its faculty and many students were open to UU members being there. Some of the seminary students and at least one professor insisted to her face that she wasn't Christian. They would loudly ask what she's doing there, and turned chapel services into a hostile environment. To them, she was a "heathen" who had no place in "God school."

When I asked her about the song just now, she said, "I've been called a lot worse. That doesn't take away the validity of [Enigma's] interpretation. I just get mad about other things."

Similarly, I just don't have that affective response against the word. I find the song pretty bland and uninteresting though - "heathen/outsider/criminal" is too easy of a connection, and there's nothing else in the song I really like. To compare that to a song that uses heathenism or its themes more productively to focus on seeking and isolation, there's this song by David Bowie:

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Re: Heathen

Post by rowan » Sat Oct 15, 8:42 2016

I don't know the song (I don't listen to much radio these days and haven't seen the movie) but I'm sorry people have been shitty to you about being UU. I'm not surprised (based on where I grew up) but I haven't met a UU person who has been crappy to me unlike most other Christian religions. So you get a thumbsup from me. :)

I would argue that people who look down on other people and be snottty about their religion as being "better" or "more godlike" are the heathens and they will discover that eventually. ;) But maybe that's my own little petty fantasy revenge.
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Re: Heathen

Post by Taurwen » Sat Oct 15, 20:48 2016

My dad used to call us (Mom, sister, and I) heathens because we were part of the United Church of Canada and he's Catholic. Mind you, it was said with affection and I've never seen him look more uncomfortable than when we walked into a Catholic Church.
I'm sorry you've had such a shitty experience though. I haven't heard the song (and can't listen to it now) so I can't comment on it. Heathen doesn't hold much sway to me because I don't think my spirituality/religion is anyone's business and if someone thinks otherwise the weight I give their opinion is automatically lessened. I'd kinda view it on the same level as an Atheist calling me an idiot for having a religion, at first I might want to argue but it's really not worth the effort of thinking about it.

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Re: Heathen

Post by Storage and Disposal » Sun Oct 16, 0:29 2016

I mean, your reaction isn't discredited just because the vast majority doesn't share your specific background, so of course you aren't overreacting.

I don't find the word offensive, despite probably being considered heathen for quite some time. I think at this point people aren't even using it as a religious word. By saying that, I'm not saying people should be ok with a word just because it's taking on a different meaning. I'm just trying to get you to be slightly less angry at one of your new favorite bands, heh.
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Re: Heathen

Post by Enigma » Sun Oct 16, 11:26 2016

Storage and Disposal wrote:I mean, your reaction isn't discredited just because the vast majority doesn't share your specific background, so of course you aren't overreacting.
Ok I like that, thanks Storage. :)

Interesting to see everyone's views though. I'd prefer if it didn't bother me. I guess I'm expecting disrespect because that's what I've found in the past when words like that start going around?

Sonic - It's interesting your partner considers herself Christian (If I read that right?) Because I never have. But UU is a great religion that way.. different beliefs united by principles.
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Re: Heathen

Post by filmmakingally » Sun Oct 16, 23:07 2016

Reading through everyone's comments, I think I may have misunderstood the original question, and I regret saying that I thought you were being overly sensitive. I'm sorry for doing that, for two reasons.

First of all, I don't think I understood that you were offended by the use of the word at all, as it's one that has generally been used in the pejorative. And perhaps more importantly, as Storage and Sonic pointed out, your emotional reaction to the use of that word doesn't need external validation.

I suppose what I should've said is simply to state my perspective. I grew up a devout Catholic, but have since switched to atheism. Unlike you, however, I've received no discrimination or backlash against my loss of religion, so the word "heathen" has no emotional effect on me. That, of course, shouldn't stop you from voicing the ways in which it bothers you, and I'm glad you did.

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Re: Heathen

Post by DarkOne » Mon Oct 17, 6:02 2016

It's not offensive to me, but I've lived in a cushy Catholic bubble most of my life, so the word doesn't hit any of my nerves. But I understand where you're coming from and I agree with others about the validity of your feelings. I have a similar experience with a line in a fairly popular song that just annoys the heck out of me, and I have yet to meet anyone else who bats an eye at the lyrics. **sigh**

TBH, I don't often take people who use the word "heathen" seriously. I'd estimate over 90% of the times I hear it, they're either joking being patronizing. When I heard it in the song, I didn't fixate on "heathens", but rather on "oooh,a song glorifying cliques" -_- meh. Not a fan.
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Re: Heathen

Post by Nerd1987 » Sat Oct 29, 21:14 2016

I took heathen as basically deviant in that song.

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Re: Heathen

Post by Alison369 » Wed Nov 2, 23:51 2016

Yeah.... Um.....
You do know what 'heathen" means, right?
It's someone who lacks morals, often pertaining to religion.


What is up with feminists and being "offended"?!
I'm a proud female, and have no desire to censor others for their artistic expression.

Don't you think constantly being offended makes women look weak?

I sure think so.
Granted, I've had my fair share of discrimination in the workplace based on my gender, but I don't let it get to me.
I do what I can to prove myself, and not get offended at menial nonsense like particular songs.

I think we should stop being so sensitive about those things, and learn to accept it as modern culture.

Do you have any idea how many anti-male songs there are out there?
Look up Katy parry, or P!nk. Ad get back to me.


I don't hate men, I just wish I had the same rights as them.
But still.... I do not lower myself to the point of being "offended" by song lyrics.

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Re: Heathen

Post by Sonic# » Thu Nov 3, 4:32 2016

I know that "Katy parry" was a religious writer and queen of England, but I didn't know she wrote anti-male songs.

Otherwise, what I don't get about objections to offense is that they undercut their own logic. If you're going to act as the censor to offense, shouldn't you be the first to check your own offense? Shouldn't this post not be written?

No, of course not. You're objecting to certain kinds of offense, while insisting that you're still allowed to take offense at things that aren't menial nonsense. That seems self-contradictory.

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Re: Heathen

Post by Enigma » Fri Nov 4, 15:42 2016

...heathen means not christian. If it also means a lack of morals as you say. It implies non-christians can't be moral. Which is why I don't like it?

It's so big of you to take time out of your day to come by and let me know I'm looking weak. I certainly will take the time to rearrange my life and religion around your opinion of me.
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Re: Heathen

Post by filmmakingally » Sat Nov 5, 0:52 2016

Enigma wrote:...heathen means not christian. If it also means a lack of morals as you say. It implies non-christians can't be moral
Is that really what it means? Cuz you can just google the definition, and it doesn't say either of those things. You're not the only person on this forum who grew up Christian. I actually was once so deep in it that I seriously considered priesthood. That doesn't make me the expert in this conversation, but it does give me the right to point out that you aren't either.

The things you're saying about Christianity don't ring true to me, and your definition of the word "heathen" is not one that I share. I only know that word to mean somebody who has no religion. Which is how it's listed in the dictionary. That is the only definition of the word I've ever known.

Maybe the way you see that word is more a reflection of your surroundings? I obviously don't know, I'm just thinking aloud, but the way you're using that word in this conversation is definitely not the way that the people I live around use it. Which is to say that we don't ever use it. It's a very antiquated term.

I'm not saying this to de-legitimize what you're saying, because youre experiences are of course 100% valid. If that's what you're living, then that's what you're living, and I believe you when you say what it is you're experiencing. I'm only trying to point out that there is a more-largely-held perspective that you might not yet be aware of.

Regardless, I wish you the best, and I'm not trying to be confrontational -- if you'd like to further discuss Christianity and stuff, I'd gladly do that via PM should you be interested.

Lastly, I'm sorry that you're going through these struggles in your life. I'm sorry that I previously reacted in a way that was not sensitive to the real-world issues you are dealing with. That was stupid of me, and I'm sorry for that. I was definitely wrong to say that you were being "over-sensitive".

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Re: Heathen

Post by Sonic# » Sat Nov 5, 8:19 2016

^ Please read what Engima wrote again. She says it means not Christian. Enigma also says "If it also means a lack of morals as you say..."

Enigma's seemed pretty open throughout to this meaning different things to different people (see her original post). Alison was the one insisting on it meaning that someone was immoral. Yet you jumped on Enigma. Unfair much?

I'll add this 14th century quote listed by the Oxford English Dictionary. This quote captures how "heathen" literally means nonbeliever/non-Christian and can also be used to attack one's beliefs or moral stature:
a1340 R. Rolle Psalter x. 1 : "Heretikes & fals breþer."


Heretics and false brethren. To gloss the "wicked man" of Psalm 10. He goes on:
there ere fals brethere that will seme goed and ere noght. or that semes bettire than thai ere. and spekis & demys all men, bot if thai outher lif at thaire will or folow thaim. bot i will noght take thaim till my counsaile; for thai haf godis malyson. and if i. doe .i. sall be like a sparou. that is, vnstabile and lyght and withouten charite. as thai ere.
[There are false brethren that will seem good and are not, or that seem better than they are, and speak against and judge all men, unless they either live at their will or follow them. But I will not take them to my counsel, for they have God's curse. If I did, I should be like a sparrow, that is, unstable and fickle and without charity as they are.]
Alison's comments have a long tradition.

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Re: Heathen

Post by Enigma » Sat Nov 5, 8:57 2016

Yes all that, thanks sonic. I'd also like to add that I've also said in this thread that I've never considered myself christian (uu churches can be very very secular). Which is why I'm bothered by the implications of a word which means not christian, and has moral implications. Because I'm not christian. And I didnt grow up christian. Or in a christian church or family. Sounds like this wasn't clear. An entire life fully secular in nature except for the external judgements of others.
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Re: Heathen

Post by filmmakingally » Sat Nov 5, 10:25 2016

Sonic# wrote:^ Please read what Engima wrote again. She says it means not Christian. Enigma also says "If it also means a lack of morals as you say..."
I've actually chosen my words very carefully here, and I've definitely read everything that has been stated by everyone here.

My use of the word "I" was purposeful. I can only tell you about the experiences that I've lived, my experiences with Christianity, and how the use of the word "heathen" applies to that.

And now I learn that Enigma didn't even grow up Christian? What?! Then why are we even having this conversation? Honestly, I'm baffled at this point.

Sonic, you're quoting literature that is very old in trying to back up the idea that the definition of the word means not Christian. No, it does not mean that. It means not religious, there's an important distinction there. I'm using the modern definition, the one which is easy to look up online, and I'm telling you that my real-life experiences match the definition that is so easy to find online. Language changes over time and space; it's a really bad idea to look to 14th century literature to try to figure out what a word means today. Just google it.

I'm starting to get the impression that I'm the only Christian in this thread. I could be wrong, but if that's the case, it would seem rather insane that any non-Christians would have the nerve to tell a Christian that the meaning of the word "heathen" means "non-Christian", when the Christian is like, "uhh, no it doesn't."

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Re: Heathen

Post by rowan » Sat Nov 5, 20:24 2016

Look, a lot of Christian people do use it to mean 'no morals' or lack of morals. Just because you don't or don't know people who use it that way doesn't mean it's not out there -- it's very common. Certainly where I grew up it was very much used as a judgement of burning in hell/bad person, and that's been the case other places. (not where I am now, fortunately). Dictionary definitions are all well and good but there is still a lot of variation and in the fire-and-brimstone congregations this is still very much the mentality. I don't see the point in denying that there is part of the population who is very judgy and horrible to people who aren't Christian -- or even not their version of Christian.
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Re: Heathen

Post by Enigma » Sat Nov 5, 22:08 2016

filmmakingally wrote:And now I learn that Enigma didn't even grow up Christian? What?! Then why are we even having this conversation? Honestly, I'm baffled at this point.
Christianity is a huge part of western culture and it affects everyone in it. Based on my personal experience with how many Christian people have related to me in the past I'm a bit sensitive about the whole not Christian =/= immoral person connection. Because I have lost friendships, been looked at differently at work, and been personally hurt by people who learned I'm not of a mainstream religion. Of course this isn't true of every Christian person I meet, but there are some who hear me say agnostic (in relation with UU or no) and suddenly respect disappears. That's why I don't like the word. And no I've never been called it. But there was a time in my life where I internalized the concept.

Also this is the dictionary definition it gives me when I google:
1.derogatory
a person who does not belong to a widely held religion (especially one who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim) as regarded by those who do.


Not to mention the historical treatment of so called heathens by the crusading west.. but that's a whole other story.
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Re: Heathen

Post by Storage and Disposal » Sun Nov 6, 0:12 2016

Does this thread need locked? I fail to see the point of the tangent filmmakingally has created, no offense.
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Re: Heathen

Post by Sonic# » Sun Nov 6, 14:46 2016

So Enigma's latest post among all of this has reminded me: my best friend from elementary school stopped talking to me for years because his mom thought I was a heathen.
filmmakingally wrote:
Sonic, you're quoting literature that is very old in trying to back up the idea that the definition of the word means not Christian.
I thought it was clear that Allison was providing the present-day example of heathen meaning not Christian. I thought that historical context would establish that Allison's usage and the terms of use observed by rowan, Enigma, and others are not unique, that centuries-old traditions have more lasting power than that revealed in a cursory Google search.

"Heathen," "heretic," and related terms all denote people who are outside of established, catholic, or apostolic practice. They denote Others, including non-Christian Others. And that's weaponized by some Christians against non-Christians as well as against Christians whom they don't think are the right kind of Christian. My fuzzy head used the related word "heretic" in the last post, but it was a felicitous error, because the two concepts are sometimes used interchangeably where I am. To double-check myself, I look up heathen again:
Oxford English Dictionary wrote:A.(adj)1.Of an individual or people: holding religious beliefs of a sort that are considered unenlightened, now esp. ones of a primitive or polytheistic nature; spec. not of the Christian, Jewish, or Muslim faiths.
[...]
B. (n.)1.a. One who holds a religious belief which is neither Christian, Jewish, nor Muslim; a pagan.
2. transf. One that has no more religion, enlightenment, or culture than a pagan.
You can see the scope changes. Sometimes it's pagan, allowing for Abrahamic religions. Practically speaking, where I am that means "non-Christian," since many of the same people using terms like "heathen" would stand in front of a mosque with signs or a firearm.

Finally, a heartbreaking example courtesy of a search engine [trigger warning - long-term rape and abuse]:
Article on Michelle Knight's captivity wrote:Cagle replies with a story about how her foster parents locked her in an “old-timey wardrobe” for hours at a time. “They would say, ‘You’re a heathen! Sit in there and think about what you’ve done wrong. And you better pray to God. By the time we unlock this wardrobe, you better figure out what you’ve done wrong.’”

“And you wouldn’t have a clue,” Knight says.

“I was a little child!” Cagle says. “I would sit in there and just be beside myself, just wondering, What did I do wrong?” Cagle is fighting back tears. “Then I would come out. ‘Well, did you figure it out?’ And if it wasn’t right, they would beat me and tell me how horrible I was.”

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