Jack Vance of Atheist Revolution seldom misses an opportunity to fume about you-know-what – the divisive dogmatic atheoplussoFTbullyo bloggers and their friends. He always misrepresents the facts when he does so. (For instance he casually said I misrepresented Michael Shermer. Not true. I quoted exactly what Shermer said.) He drags the subject in again now when one would have thought the subject was something quite different.
If you read Hemant Mehta’s (Friendly Atheist) recent post about how the London School of Economics (LSE) recently freaked out over two atheist students wearing Jesus & Mo t-shirts during a student organization fair, you’ll know that the title was a perfect description of the take-home message: Wearing Jesus & Mo Shirts Doesn’t Mean You’re Discriminating Against Christians and Muslims. Indeed, it doesn’t.
So far so good. Ok for another three paragraphs. But then we get to the real subject, the subject that must never be put aside if it can be helped.
As I read Hemant’s post, I found myself gripped with an odd sense of deja vu. Taking offense at a silly t-shirt and equating it with things like discrimination…why did that sound so damned familiar? And then it hit me – it is not just religious believers who do this stuff. Remember the t-shirt Dr. Harriet Hall wore at TAM and the reactions she received? Some atheists took offense and equated wearing a t-shirt with harassment.
The two are not the same.
You know what? If Chris and Abhishek had worn Tshirts saying “I am not a stupid mozzie” then I wouldn’t be defending them, and neither would other reasonable people. But then of course Chris and Abhishek wouldn’t wear Tshirts like that, because they’re not assholes.
Vance goes on.
In concluding his post, Hemant asked the important question:
At what point should we stop caving in to people who can’t handle fair criticism of their beliefs?
Now. Now is the point at which we should stop caving in to those who refuse to tolerate criticism of their beliefs. Hemant is right that this is the question we should all be asking. Bad ideas, whether they are religious or not, must be criticized. And as long as we are criticizing ideas, we cannot let ourselves be dissuaded by misplaced howls of discrimination, harassment, and the like.
No. A personal insult or taunt is not the same thing as criticism of beliefs. Now is the point at which people should stop conflating the two.