Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Shocked, SHOCKED, I Tell You

So allow me to recap: A concerned mother writes to her state representatives urging them not to vote for legislation that will inevitably lead to the bullying of her atheist child… and one of the representatives writes back to say the eight-year-old girl is a fool with a darkened heart for not believing in God.
Arkansas State Representative Calls Eight-Year-Old Atheist a Fool

Who cares? I mean, really. A Christian said something mean about someone, using the Bible as the basis for their statements? Horrors.

Why is this news to anyone?

Not to say that being a Christian automatically makes one mean, but it's really past time that Secular Humanists, Atheists, Brights and anyone else who bothers to define themselves by what they don't believe in started actually expecting that people do believe in whatever it is are going to act in accordance with those beliefs.
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
Psalms 14:1 (King James Version)
So, given that the above passage is in the Bible, if you don't believe in God, and you encounter a Jew or a Christian who claims to follow the Bible faithfully, but doesn't regard you as a corrupt fool, perhaps you should be asking them about how they reconcile obedience to their scriptures with obvious cherry picking, rather than patting them on the back, and giving them your Seal of Approval. It's disingenuous and, frankly, bordering on idiotic to expect support for religious pluralism from someone who understands that the particular belief system that they espouse is not only superior, but self-evidently correct. Especially when a supernatural Adversary whose only aim in life is to "lead people astray" is a major character in that belief system. (If you do get it, great! Maybe... But having the expectation of it is stretching things.)

The point here isn't that we should expect anyone who believes in something that we don't be uncivil about it. But we shouldn't be so constantly surprised by the incivility of people who are members of a group that defines itself specifically as being in opposition to others - especially given the fact that no group that's large enough to have entered the public consciousness is small enough to not have any jackasses in it. There comes a point where being "outraged" about this or that insensitive or intolerant comment goes from actual "outrage" to simply a form of pointing and laughing at someone who you have decided is less intellectually advanced than you are. Eventually, the Cataloging of Sins becomes about nothing more than proving one's own ethical (or moral, if you will) superiority to those benighted people who don't have the civilized instincts to treat people that they understand to be wrong as if they were actually right.

It's unproductive. At best. Representative Payton is unlikely to be shamed into changing his stance because some Atheists are critical of him. In fact, it's simply liable to elevate his standing in the eyes of his constituency. Especially if the whole "minute of silence" thing is, as Mr. Mehta suspects, "really just a way to push prayer into the public schools," as it's unlikely that the Representative would be backing this if the people who voted for him were likely to punish him if it passed.

Publicly keeping the "us versus them" conflict going isn't going to do anything to help a little girl who is being harassed on the playground - mainly because it simply pushes the idea that "you're different from me, and that's bad," which is the root of such harassment in the first place. Rather than keeping one's friends close and one's enemies always in mind, we're all better off surrounding ourselves with people who have demonstrated that they can disagree with others without threatening them or being threatened by them. Leave the haters on the outside, looking in, without the benefit of attention that gives them power.

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