Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rude? What makes some theists think atheists are rude?

PZ Myers is saying, "Godless Coloradans, rise up!" because the DNC has chosen to spurn a significant bloc of voters who are not "people of faith." So, there's a demonstration planned for the Democratic Convention.

This may, or may not, be a good idea, it all depends on how it's handled. I think it will be important to work against the stereotype that atheists are aggressive, raving lunatics and that they're rude and insulting. If the protest is smarter and more polite than any other protest ever seen and still gets on the news it could drive home some important points. Maybe use smarter signs like: "They say they don't have enough faith to be atheists, and yet they don't consider atheists to be people of faith? Is this hypocrisy?" Don't yell and scream. Don't try to get arrested. It shouldn't be that kind of protest.

The ironic thing is that if the demonstration happens, such protest will make the Democrats appear more religious because they share the same anti-atheist bigotry as the Republicans. It might give them a small boost when people see the Democrats don't like us either.

One of the arguments against the atheists being included in the event is this Gazette Op-Ed called, "Dems dismiss the atheists. Why rude guests aren't welcome." Of course, the article itself is a quite rude, insulting, presumptuous and deeply bigoted, saying "a few atheists have their panties in a twist once again," because an atheist wasn't invited to speak at an interfaith service that's part of the Democratic National Convention. It will feature Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist speakers, but not an atheist. Why not? "Probably because they're rude," says the author.

What's wrong with the Op-Ed is a little too obvious to spend a lot of time on, but I will give it a bit of space even though it's the same crap I've blogged on before, and so have many others. I do want to call your attention to it because it spells out a common stereotype and straw man where "atheism is a religion," at least from the standpoint of government, and where "one belief is no more valid than another."

One belief no more valid than another? Really? So, a belief that that we live on a flat Earth at the center of the universe is just as valid as a belief that our Earth is merely one of several planets orbiting a rather average star? Is a belief that God created the Earth and all creatures on it 6,000 years ago just as valid as the belief that the Earth is about 4 billion years old and life evolved? I don't think so, but I wonder if the Op-Ed writer is a creationist.

The Op-Ed goes on to say:

Therefore a belief in creation - or an original intelligence, Jesus, Buddha, or the "Flying Spaghetti Monster" - is no more valid in the eyes of the law than the odd belief that nothing could possibly exist beyond what our embryonic state of scientific discovery has seen in our relatively primitive microscopes and telescopes.

If it were true that "in the eyes of the law" all religious beliefs are of equal validity then how could a judge declare that Deanna Laney was insane when she claimed that God told her to kill her sons? How could the law decide if Banita Jacks was wrong about her four daughters being "possessed by demons"? How would the law know that Andrea Yates didn't have a valid religious belief when she claimed that she killed her children because "they didn't do things God likes."

If the law really saw all religious beliefs as equally valid then the Militant Islamic belief that laws should be rooted in Sharia would be just as valid as our belief in religious freedom and separation of church and state. Of course, the Op-Ed's example doesn't speak to a belief that appears, at first glance, to have much consequence, creation by an original intelligence versus scientific discovery, but that too is wrong. Our courts have decided that creationists cannot call their creationist beliefs science and then have them taught in a science class.

The eyes of the law must decide which beliefs are valid when matters of legal consequence are involved and the Op-Ed is false on this point.

The Op-Ed confuses validity with certainty, I can have valid beliefs without being a hundred percent certain of them, and statements like "embryonic state of scientific discovery has seen in our relatively primitive microscopes and telescopes" indicate a desire to reject science and it's the kind of thing a creationist says.

From there the Op-Ed only gets worse:

To rational thinkers, atheism seems a sad and shallow belief. That's because great scientists understand that, metaphorically, they've discovered little more than the drawings on the walls of a cave. They don't know what's beyond the cave or how it began. As Albert Einstein said: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. ... a legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist."

Really, "rational thinkers"? All of them? I guess most of the worlds top scientists are not rational thinkers because among the top natural scientists, disbelief is greater than ever — almost total.

... a number of atheists have taken to confronting and insulting believers of other religions. They pretend that atheist beliefs are proven true, while others are proven false. They refer to other religions as "irrational," and "superstitious." Their approach to ministry is overbearing and rude. They engage in confrontation, with disregard for persuasion. It's as if they've watched too much "American Idol," where Simon Cowell briefly made it hip to be the bully.

He must be talking about stuff like this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

But I don't think you'd get anything like that from a speaker sent by the Coalition of Secular Voters any more than you would expect a hellfire and brimstone sermon about your sinful nature from any of the other groups that have speakers at the event. If you think you would then you don't really understand the scope of atheism.

Hitler imagined a world without Jews. The Freedom From Religion Foundation rented a billboard near the Colorado Convention Center that says: "Imagine No Religion."

Imagine a world with no religion and one sees a world without the Golden Rule, devoid of most charities, hospitals and great universities. One sees hurricane recovery zones, minus all the chartered planes and buses full of churchgoers giving their time and money to rebuild homes. How many children are fed and clothed by atheist charity organizations? Approximately none.

Imagine no religion and one sees a world ruled by atheist tyrants - Pol Pot, Albania's Enver Hoxha, Stalin and Mao, to name a few - who have murdered tens of millions in modern efforts to cleanse society of religion.

Hitler, eh? I'm not going to bother much with the above except to underline it as having been written. If the Op-Ed had said something like that about any other group the writer would probably have been fired.

American Muslims, Baptists, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Mormons, Quakers, Amish, etc., don't erect billboards saying "Imagine No Atheists." They don't advocate government force to cleanse atheist expressions and teachings from the public square. They don't imply that atheists are "irrational," even though atheists claim absolute knowledge. They don't advocate theft and desecration of atheist property, even though an atheist hero in Minnesota stole and destroyed the Catholic Eucharist.

Religious people may not have erected billboards saying "Imagine No Atheists," but religious groups sure do love to erect billboards saying all kinds of things. The roadsides are full of crosses and God campaigns. There have been billboards saying, "Sharia law is hate," anti-Evolution Billboards and billboards asking "Why Do Atheists Hate America?" They even put up billboards saying that Saturday, rather than Sunday, was the true Sabbath.

Also, the veiled claim that atheists "advocate government force to cleanse theist expressions and teachings from the public square" is simply a blatant lie hidden by an inverse claim. By saying theists don't do it to atheists he implies that atheists do it to theists. The writer doesn't have the guts to come out and say something so blatantly false, so they only hint at it. This is a claim I generally associate with the Intelligent Design movement and creationism. However, in this case, it's more likely aimed the groups that fight against Ten Commandments displays, enforced school prayer times and the words "under God" in the pledge. It's deeply unfair to hint that this is an attempt to "cleanse theist expressions and teachings from the public square." What they are trying to do is make sure that the government does not endorse religion in an impermissible way. It's interpreted as a violation of First Amendment to the United States Constitution because of a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote where he said the intention of that amendment was to create a "wall of separation" between church and state. Not all expressions are cleansed and this vague thing called "the public square" is much larger than the intended target.

The most phony thing, however, about that claim is that it's not just atheists that want to make sure that the government does not endorse religion in an impermissible way. Many Christians, Jews and other believers have participated in that fight.

Democrats will nominate a Christian gentleman who respects others. It's likely they didn't invite atheists to their faith service because they didn't want embarrassing guests. Atheists might bring pseudointellectual proselytizers, who are intolerant, self-aggrandizing and rude. Atheists should fund universities and hospitals. They should feed and clothe starving kids. They should act more like Christians and Jews. If they do some of that - if they contribute to a diverse humanity - they might get better party invites.

Talk about pseudo-intellectual proselytizers, who are intolerant, self-aggrandizing and rude. That's pretty much what I thought of this Op-Ed. Also if he thinks that atheists should fund universities and hospitals, feed and clothe starving kids in order get invited to the party, then I think he better invite Bill Gates and Warren Buffet because those two atheists have given billions of dollars in order to do things like that.

The Op-Ed, I think, represents the kind of thing atheists should try to work against. It's an image problem that's mostly fed by dishonest writers like the person who wrote that Op-Ed, but Christopher Hitchens probably isn't helping us in that department either.


Anonymous said...

It's simultaneously sad and insulting that the author of the Op-Ed isn't aware that most "religious" hospitals and aid agencies are primarily funded by secular money. The vast majority of funding for Catholic hospitals comes from government and private donations, not from the Vatican.

I'm really, really getting sick of the "without religion there are no morals/ethics and atheists don't have any interest in taking care of anyone besides themselves". Tell that to the Swiss, or Sweden, or Norway, or for that matter just about any country in Europe that has both higher standards of living and higher levels of "non-belief" than the US.

Anonymous said...

So the Op-Ed has a problem with the fact that atheists don't form 'atheist aid agencies' and give aid labelled as 'atheist aid'?

Is he saying that atheists don't give aid, or that atheists don't give aid in the name of atheism?

Anonymous said...

Muslims Against Sharia support "Sharia law is hate" billboard. Do not fall for upcoming media claims that the statement "Sharia law is hate" offends Muslims; it only offends radical Muslims who want to replace the Constitution with the Koran.